China claims PH has yet to remove BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal as promised
MANILA, Philippines — China claims that the Philippines has promised to tow away the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, China’s Foreign Ministry said that the Philippines made that promise “several times” but that the Philippines “has yet to act” on it.
It asserted that Ayungin Shoal, called Ren’ai Jiao, “has always been part of China’s Nansha Qundao.”
“In 1999, the Philippines sent a military vessel and deliberately ran it aground at Ren’ai Jiao, attempting to change the status quo of Ren’ai Jiao illegally. China immediately made serious démarches to the Philippines, demanding the removal of the vessel. The Philippines promised several times to tow it away, but has yet to act. Not only that, the Philippines sought to overhaul and reinforce the military vessel in order to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao,” it said.
China’s Foreign Ministry also addressed the recent incident at Ayungin Shoal, where its coast guard fired water cannon at Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels escorting boats delivering supplies to Filipino soldiers in the West Philippine Sea last August 5.
Beijing asserted that the incident happened because PCG’s vessel ignored China’s “repeated dissuasion and warning.”
“The Philippines sent two vessels that intruded into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao and tried to deliver the construction materials for overhauling and reinforcing the grounded military vessel. Such actions violated China’s sovereignty and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The China Coast Guard vessels stopped them in accordance with law and warned them off through appropriate law enforcement measures. Their maneuvers were professional, restrained and beyond reproach,” it said.
Further, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the United States for “brazenly bolstering the Philippines as it infringes upon China’s sovereignty,” adding that the South China Sea arbitration was a “pure political drama” staged in the name of the law with the US pulling strings behind the scenes.
Responding to these claims, National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said he and the country’s foreign affairs officials have no idea what China is talking about.
“We have no idea what they are talking about. I have talked to our colleagues from the Department of Foreign Affairs, even the ones from the Department of National Defense from the previous administrations. There was no commitment, whatsoever, as far as the Philippines is concerned and there is no record of any such commitment,” Malaya said in an interview over ANC on Tuesday, August 8.
“There is no record of a meeting or an official record that the Philippines, in the past, committed to China that it will tow away the BRP Sierra Madre,” he stressed.
Ayungin Shoal is a low-tide elevation about 194 kilometers off Palawan province that is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.