China warns PH: Prepare to ‘bear consequences’

China warns PH: Prepare to ‘bear consequences’ of sea actions

SURROUNDED This frame grab from aerial video footage takenand released on March 23 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows a China Coast Guard ship and vessels identified by PCGas “Chinese Maritime Militia” (left and right) surrounding the PCG ship BRP Cabra during its supply mission near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in theWest Philippine Sea. —AFP/PCG

SURROUNDED | This frame grab from aerial video footage taken and released on March 23 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows a China Coast Guard ship and vessels identified by PCGas “Chinese Maritime Militia” (left and right) surrounding the PCG ship BRP Cabra during its supply mission near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in theWest Philippine Sea. (Photo from the Philippine Coast Guard)

MANILA, Philippines — China has warned the Philippines to “be prepared to bear all potential consequences” of its actions in the South China Sea after the China Coast Guard (CCG) on Saturday accused Manila of bringing constructions materials to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal to justify the latest water cannon attack on a boat bringing supplies and new troops to the BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated warship deliberately grounded there to serve as a Philippine outpost.

In the latest confrontation, CCG ships blasted water cannons at the Philippine supply boat Unaizah May 4 while en route to the shoal, causing an unspecified number of injuries to sailors onboard and heavy damage to the wooden vessel.

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“If the Philippines insists on going its own way, China will continue to adopt resolute measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said after the incident on Saturday.

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The Chinese Embassy in Manila quoted a statement from CCG spokesperson Gan Yu claiming that the Philippine supply vessel attempted to “transport construction materials” to the grounded ship in Ayungin Shoal.

READ: Chinese vessel again tries to block PH research vessel

“Despite repeated warnings and routing control by the Chinese side, the Filipino resupply ship tried to forcefully intrude into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao,” said Yu, using the Chinese name for Ayungin Shoal.

The CCG claimed it “implemented lawful regulation, interception, and expulsion in a reasonable and professional manner.”

“We warn the Philippines that playing with fire is an invitation of disgrace, and the [CCG] is ready at all times to defend the country’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” it added.

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Supply missions to continue

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, who chairs the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said on Sunday that the Philippines would not be deterred from resupplying its military outpost in Ayungin despite China’s latest harassment.

“We will not be intimidated because it is our right and we have to protect our soldiers, our sailors there at BRP Sierra Madre,” he asserted.

The Chinese are “humiliating themselves” with what they are doing and they are acting “as if it’s already the end of the world over a mere resupply mission,” he added.

The Philippines was able to bring the supplies and a new batch of troops to the BRP Sierra Madre using a rigid hull inflatable boat, although the Chinese tried to block them by placing a floating barrier.

Since Ayungin is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Año reiterated that it was “within our rights and authority to conduct rotation and resupply provision operations there, and this is one way of asserting our sovereign rights.”

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, overlapping its claims with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Beijing continues to ignore a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping claims and upheld Philippine sovereignty over its EEZ.

Año said a top-level security meeting was set today to discuss the incident and the overall aspects related to the West Philippine Sea, after which recommendations would be presented to President Marcos.

Condemnation from US, EU

The United States and the European Union (EU) reiterated their support for the Philippines and condemned the CCG’s “dangerous” actions.

“This incident marks only the latest in the (People’s Republic of China’s) repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and disruption of supply lines to this long standing outpost,” the US Department of State said in a statement on Sunday.

Washington reiterated its commitment to defend the Philippines in case of an armed attack as provided under the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty.

In a separate statement, the EU’s diplomatic service said it was “deeply concerned” by the incident on March 23 and urged “safety of life at sea should be respected at all times.”

“The succession of repeated dangerous maneuvers, blocking and water-cannoning from (CCG) vessels and maritime militia against Philippine vessels engaged in resupply missions constituted a dangerous provocation,” it pointed out.

The EU called for “restraint and full respect of the relevant international rules” to ensure a peaceful resolution of disputes and safety of life at sea.”

Maritime security expert Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea said the Philippines should persist and resist China’s intimidation and continue to peacefully assert its rights, and for the country’s partners and allies to continue to support Manila’s position and back it with actions.

China’s statement is ‘rude’

Sen. Francis Tolentino on Sunday denounced Beijing’s warning.

“[W]e can see China’s statement already getting worse… it’s like they are saying we are inviting ourselves to shame. Such a statement is rude,” Tolentino said in an interview with dzBB.

“It is not our intention to shame anybody, especially ourselves. We were just bringing supplies and materials for our troops in Ayungin Shoal,” he added.

Tolentino, chair of the Senate special committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones, said “it is alarming… the Philippines’ maritime zones law will not prevent China because it disregards all prevailing rules and international laws.”

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Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Sunday raised the likely link of the Philppine Coast Guard Auxiliary’s (PCGA) recruitment of foreigners to China’s seeming receipt of advance information on scheduled resupply missions to Ayungin.

In an interview in dzBB’s “Dobol B Bantay Balita sa Kongreso,” Barbers said in Filipino that he believed that the Chinese nationals could have joined the PCGA to possibly get information on the capacity, the communications network and capability of the PCG.

—WITH REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE

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TAGS: maritime dispute, PH-China Relations, West Philippine Sea

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