China rejects PH protest over Ayungin shoal incident
MANILA, Philippines – China has rejected the protest of the Philippines regarding the expulsion incident of two civilian Filipino vessels in Ayungin shoal Wednesday.
“The Chinese side does not accept the protest by the Philippine side,” Zhang Hua, spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, said in a text message to reporters.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned the charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy Tuesday to protest the expulsion by the Chinese Coast Guard of two civilian vessels contracted by the Philippine Navy to conduct troop rotation and resupply operations in Ayungin shoal.
“China’s actions constitute a clear and urgent threat to the rights and interests of the Philippines under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a press conference.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman alleged that the Filipino vessels were carrying construction materials and were going to begin construction of structure on Ayungin Shoal.
The shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal internationally and Ren’ai Reef to China, is home to the grounded World War II era ship BRP Sierra Madre that serves as a garrison to a small detachment of marines.
The dilapidated Sierra Madre was grounded on the shoal back in 1999 to mark the Philippines territorial claim in the area that is disputed by several countries including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.
Ayungin shoal is 105 nautical miles from the coast of Palawan, putting it within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone within which a country has exclusive rights to the maritime resources.
The expulsion of Filipino from Ayungin marks the second instance that the CCG drove away Filipinos from maritime features within the Philippines waters.
Last Jan. 27, Filipino fishermen were driven away by the CCG using water cannons from Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag shoal or Scarborough shoal, located 118 nautical miles from the coast of Zambales province.
The Philippines’ protest against China for using water cannons against Filipino fishermen was likewise rejected by the Chinese Embassy.
China cites that it has indisputable sovereignty over nearly 90 percent of entire South China Sea as part of its nine-dash line territorial claim.
The Philippines has a pending arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and is set to submit its memorial by March 30.
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