Lodging a protest with Beijing, Philippines on Thursday said China “blocked” and “water cannoned” its food supply boats in the disputed South China Sea.
“On 16 November 2021, three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water cannoned two Philippine supply boats en route to transport food supplies to Philippine military personnel in Ayungin Shoal,” said Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
He said no one was hurt in the incident “but our boats had to abort their resupply mission.”
Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal, or atoll in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea, lies 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, Philippines, is part of the Kalayaan Island Group.
Several nations claim their ownership of the Shoal but is currently under Philippines, where it has deployed its military and is located in the country’s maritime exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Locsin said he lodged “outrage, condemnation and protest of the incident” with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian in Manila.
“I reminded China that a public vessel is covered by the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty,” the secretary said, calling the “acts of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels illegal.”
Philippines won a case in 2016 at a UN-backed arbitration court that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
It is claimed by China and several other regional countries, and the continuing US naval operations in the Taiwan Strait, part of the disputed sea, have angered Beijing.
China’s assertions are based on its “nine-dash line” – purple dashes on official Chinese maps that denote Beijing’s historical claims in the South China Sea.
“China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off. This failure to exercise self-restraint threatens the special relationship between the Philippines and China that President Rodrigo R. Duterte and President Xi Jinping have worked hard to nurture,” Locsin added.
Vowing to continue supplies to Philippines troops in Ayungin Shoal, he said: “We do not ask permission to do what we need to do in our territory.”
The Duterte administration has so far filed 211 diplomatic notes against Beijing for “continuing incursions in the country's waters.”
“As we have in the past, we will continue to assert our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over our territory,” said Philippines Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
Action to safeguard China's sovereignty
In response, China said the Philippine boats “trespassed into the waters without its permission, and its coast guard ships took action to safeguard "sovereignty and maritime order.”
The two sides are “communicating on this matter, and the situation in the waters near Ren’ai Jiao is generally calm,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news conference in Beijing.
The Chinese refer to Second Thomas Shoal as Ren’ai Jiao.