Politics

Manila to continue resupply missions to disputed shoal

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BRP SIERRA MADRE, a marooned transport ship which Philippine Marines live in as a military outpost, sits on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. — REUTERS

THE PHILIPPINES at the weekend said it would continue to conduct resupply missions to its outpost at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea and would not seek permission from other countries including China.

“Our operations are conducted within our own territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, and we will not be deterred by foreign interference or intimidation,” National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Friday said Beijing would allow the Philippines to send vital supplies to BRP Sierra Madre if it gives advance notice, a remark that Mr. Año described as “absurd, nonsense and unacceptable.”

“We do not and will never need China’s approval for any of our activities there,” he added.

Last week, Manila said the Chinese Coast Guard had seized food and supplies meant for a handful of Filipino troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre on May 19.

This was after Beijing accused the Filipino soldiers of pointing a gun at its coast guard vessel, which Manila has denied.

The Philippines grounded BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era ship, at the shoal in 1999 to assert its sovereignty.

Manila also accused China’s coast guard of conducting dangerous maneuvers against a Filipino vessel that evacuated an injured Filipino soldier from the outpost also in May. Mr. Año said this was not only a violation of international law “but also of basic human rights.”

“The recent reports of Chinese forces allegedly seizing food and medical supplies meant for our advance post in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) are equally reprehensible and warrant a thorough investigation and accountability,” he added.

The shoal, which is about 100 nautical miles west of the Philippine province of Palawan, is among the features within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that are frequented by Chinese coast guard and militia — and in some cases Navy — ships.

On Sunday, Stanford University’s Project Myoushu reported that China’s maritime militia vessel swarming at Iroquois Reef at the southern end of the gas- and oil-rich Reed Bank had risen to at least 26 as of June 2. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza