US envoy hails Marcos stand vs China’s claim
The United States had thought it was “inconceivable” for the Philippines to have promised China that it would remove its ship from its own waters, US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said, adding that she commended President Marcos for his “powerful” response to that claim which China made twice this week.
In an interview during her visit to the Inquirer office on Thursday, Carlson said Manila was regularly communicating with Washington regarding the South China Sea—particularly the West Philippine Sea, as Manila calls the waters within its excluisive economic zone (EEZ).
With the Philippines taking the lead in asserting its sovereignty, the United States is right behind with its support, Carlson said.
She said Manila’s supposed promise to Beijing that it would remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal “didn’t make sense,” because the waters being claimed by China were “within the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.”
In 1999, the Philippines grounded the World War II-era warship in those waters to uphold its sovereignty in that area amid China’s incursions already during that time.
The President on Wednesday said there was no such agreement with China to remove the grounded vessel.
“We were pleased to see President Marcos refute that and say [that] if somehow somewhere—although it seems inconceivable—it was stated, then ‘I hereby rescind it,’” Carlson said, quoting Mr. Marcos.
“That was very powerful and we very much support that,” she added. “We are interested in working with our ally in whatever way makes sense that deters rather than instigates any sort of conflict. We [want to] deter conflict,” Carlson added.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines affirmed on Thursday that Chinese vessels had outnumbered Philippine boats at Ayungin Shoal on Saturday, when the China Coast Guard (CCG) fired water cannons at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel and at a wooden boat operated by the Philippine Navy.
The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea said on Monday that there were six CCG vessels, two Chinese militia ships and another three ships operated by the People’s Liberation Army Navy during that incident. The Philippines, on the other hand, had two PCG ships and two boats.
In an update at Thursday’s Laging Handa briefing, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said a total of 12 Chinese militia vessels were present during the water cannonade.
These boats “were supporting the six ships of the China Coast Guard,” he said.
Aguilar said, contrary to China’s claim that Philippine ships were transporting construction materials, that the boats on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre were only carrying water, food and other supplies.