China asserts it rules PH EEZ, says Filipino boats ‘trespassed’
MANILA, Philippines—China doubled down on its sovereignty claims inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), saying its coast guard was performing “official duties in accordance with the law” when it blocked and bombarded with water cannon Philippine boats en route to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
At a press conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Thursday (Nov. 18) said the Chinese coast guard vessels involved in the case merely upheld “China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime order.” The two Philippine boats “trespassed” into Chinese waters, which Beijing calls Ren’ai Jiao.
“Chinese coast guard vessels performed official duties in accordance with international law and upheld China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime order,” he said.
Zhao said Philippine and Chinese officials were “in communication” about the case, the latest in a series of harassment by Chinese coast guard of Filipino vessels in an area that is inside the Philippines’ EEZ.
Chinese coast guard vessels blocked and blasted water cannon at Filipino boats that were supposed to resupply Filipino troops in the Philippine-occupied Ayungin Shoal, a low-tide elevation within the Philippines’ EEZ, last Tuesday (Nov. 16).
The Philippines occupies Ayungin Shoal through Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre, a World War-2 landing ship tank, which was intentionally grounded in 1999 to serve as a military outpost there.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs had earlier condemned “in the strongest terms” the behavior of the Chinese coast guard.
“The acts of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels are illegal. China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off,” said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
The Philippines would continue to supply its troops at the shoal, Locsin said.