China was provoked into expelling PH vessels from Ayungin–spokesperson
MANILA, Philippines — China defended its expulsion of two Filipino civilian ships from the Ayungin shoal, saying it was provoked and accused the Philippines of infringing on China’s rights and interests.
“The behaviour of the Philippine side has infringed upon China’s rights and interests and violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC),” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said in a press conference in Beijing Thursday.
“It is an out-and-out provocation. China has every reason to send away the two Philippine ships,” Gang said.
Last March 9, two Filipino civilian vessels contracted by the Philippine Navy to conduct troop rotation and resupply operations on Ayungin Shoal were trailed, blocked, and then told to leave the area by two Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels.
Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal internationally and Ren’ai Reef to China, is home to a World War II era ship, the BRPSierra Madre, that has been grounded back in 1999 to serve as an outpost for a small marine detachment.
China said that it has been demanding the removal of the Sierra Madre which the Philippines said it would but has not done so.
“China made representations right away to the Philippine side who then made unequivocal commitment to towing away the ship,” Gang said.
“However, the Philippines is yet to live up to its promise and haul away the rusty ship,” he said.
The two civilian ships expelled by the CCG were accused of carrying construction materials to be used for building a permanent presence inAyungin.
“To make matters worse, it sent two ships to transport construction materials to the Ren’aiReef, with the aim of building facilities and “maintaining a presence” at [Ayungin Shoal],” Gang said.
“The two Philippine ships were loaded with concrete and rebar rather than food. Is concrete and rebar edible?” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) previously filed a diplomatic protest over the expulsion incident but was rejected by China.
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 Filipinos from Ayungin marked the second instance that the CCG drove away Filipinos from maritime features within the Philippines waters.
Last January 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 China.
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