Asia - Pacific

Philippines to continue supply missions to military post in disputed waters

Manila makes U-turn, says Chinese action against Filipino sailors not ‘misunderstanding’ but ‘aggressive and illegal use of force’

Riyaz ul Khaliq  | 24.06.2024 - Update : 24.06.2024
Philippines to continue supply missions to military post in disputed waters


The Philippines on Monday said it will continue supply missions to its soldiers deployed on a war-time-era ship in the disputed South China Sea.

However, in a U-turn on its earlier description of clashes between Filipino soldiers and Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) last week near Second Thomas Shoal, Philippines Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said: “It was not a misunderstanding or an accident.”

At least one Filipino soldier lost his thumb on his right hand when a Filipino Navy rigid hull inflatable boat was blocked and searched by the CCG near Second Thomas Shoal, also known as the Ayungin Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and seized firearms and equipment.

The boat belonged to the Philippines Armed Forces and was on its way to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting World War II-era vessel that became beached on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 and has remained there ever since, serving as an outpost for the Philippine military.

Earlier, after the incident, the Philippines National Maritime Council said it does not consider the CCG's actions against Filipino troops an armed attack, adding that the incident was “probably a misunderstanding or an accident.”

However, Teodoro told a news conference on Monday: “We are not downplaying the incident.”

“It was an aggressive and illegal use of force,” the defense secretary said, repeating President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s statement that Manila was “not in a business to instigate war.”

‘Not in a business of war’

“We are not in the business to instigate wars – our great ambition is to provide a peaceful and prosperous life for every Filipino. This is the drum beat. This is the principle that we live by and that we march by,” Marcos said Sunday, addressing soldiers, based in the Palawan province, closest to Second Thomas Shoal.

Marcos stressed that the Philippines would “never allow itself to be suppressed or oppressed by anyone.”

However, China called on the Philippines “to adhere to the provisions of treaties that define the territorial scope of the Philippines, including the 1898 Treaty of Paris between the US and Spain.”

Manila “should comply with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and should stop its provocations and misleading the international community,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.

​​​​​​​The two maritime neighbors have conflicting claims over the Second Thomas Shoal -- also known as the Ayungin Shoal, Bai Co May and Ren'ai Jiao -- a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Vessels from China and the Philippines have also collided several times in the recent past, including when Manila shipped supplies to a rusting World War II-era warship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which Beijing wants the Philippines to remove.

The US and its allies have backed Manila over its claims against Beijing.

Over the months, Manila has “secretly reinforced” the rusting warship to extend its life.

“The US military has already drafted some options. The US Indo-Pacific Command last year proposed sending army engineers to bolster the ship, according to several people,” Financial Times reported last week.

But the proposal was rejected on the grounds it was too risky.

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