NSC thumbs down civilian Christmas convoy to Ayungin Shoal
MANILA, Philippines — The National Security Council (NSC) has thumbed down the planned expedition of an advocacy group to the BRP Sierra Madre near the Ayungin Shoal and enjoined them instead to visit other maritime features in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The expedition by the “Atin Ito” coalition is called “A Christmas Convoy to BRP Sierra Madre.”
“Undertaking such a convoy to Ayungin Shoal at this time of heightened tension between the Philippines and China is ill-advised,” NSC spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement on Tuesday.
The BRP Sierra Madre became the flashpoint of tensions between the Philippines and China. Philippine vessels conducting regular resupply missions for the decommissioned World War II-era ship were often harassed by China’s vessels.
This year alone, a China ship used a military-grade laser against a Philippine vessel last February and a water cannon in August and this month.
Malaya also noted that the troops on the BRP Sierra Madre were “well supplied” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard through its regular resupply missions.
“There is no need for a civilian Christmas convoy mission at this time,” Malaya said.
“We encourage them, instead to undertake the Christmas convoy to our other occupied features in the Kalayaan Island Group where Philippine troops and civilians can be found.”
The Philippines currently occupies nine maritime features, collectively known as Kalayaan Island Group, in the WPS:
- Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal
- Pagasa (Thitu) Island
- Lawak (Nanshan) Island
- Parola (Northeast Cay) Island
- Patag (Flat) Island
- Kota (Loaita) Island
- Rizal (Commodore) Reef
- Likas (West York) Island
- Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island
However, China is claiming sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, through its 10-dash line, which used to be a nine-dash line.
In 2013, the Philippines questioned China’s nine-dash line before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In July 2016, the court ruled in favor of the Philippines, effectively dismissing China’s sweeping demarcation.