Latest China intrusion in West PH Sea stresses need for stronger stance — Robredo
MANILA, Philippines — There is a need to show a stronger stance in asserting the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea amid the latest Chinese intrusion near the Ayungin Shoal, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Thursday.
According to Robredo, Filipinos should not be left harassed by Chinese boats in the said area of the West Philippine Sea, as the arbitral tribunal has already decided that the country enjoys exclusive rights to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Last 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague decided that China’s nine-dash line claim which encompasses a huge portion of the WPS had no historical and legal basis.
“Na-harass na naman ang ating resupply vessels sa Ayungin Shoal. Hindi pwedeng maliitin ang mga Pilipino nang ganito. Ang panalo natin sa Arbitral ruling ang sandalan natin para tuloy-tuloy natin ma-protektahan kung ano ang atin,” Robredo said in a statement.
(Our resupply vessels were harassed again near Ayungin Shoal. Filipinos should not be looked down on like this. Our victory at the arbitral ruling will be our basis so that we can continue protecting what is ours.)
Robredo’s statement came after Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed earlier that Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water cannoned Filipino boats that were in a mission to resupply BRP Sierra Madre, a ship grounded at the Ayungin shoal.
Ayungin shoal, where BRP Sierra Madre was intentionally grounded to serve as an outpost of the Philippine Navy, is well within the country’s EEZ.
The incident, which occurred last Tuesday, did not result into any injuries but forced the boats to abort their mission.
Robredo also revealed that she and her running mate for the 2022 presidential elections, Senator Francis Pangilinan, were in a three-hour meeting with past military general and officials on Wednesday to discuss major aspects of national security.
Little did they know, the Vice President said, that such an incident already unfolded a day before their meeting.
“Little did we know that on Nov. 16, Chinese Coast Guard vessels harassed our vessels that were on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. This kind of treatment to Filipinos must stop. WPS is ours as the arbitration tribunal ruled in July 2016,” Robredo said in a post on her personal Facebook page.
“We were able to discuss governance issues, defense spending, internal and external security concerns, civil-military relations in a democratic society, as well as non-traditional security concerns such as climate change, disaster risk reduction and management, pandemic response, cybersecurity, and disinformation,” she added.
According to the Office of the Vice President (OVP), among the military officials who attended the meeting are:
former AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Oban PAF
former AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri PA
former Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama
former Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Salvador Mison Jr PAF
former Navy Vice Commander Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong
former AFP Internal Auditor and Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan
Maj. Gen. Arnold Mancita PAF
“The three-hour discussion is considered the start of a continuing consultation process, which will allow the retired generals to assist the Vice President in crafting a responsive national security agenda that balances the need to defend the state and protect the interests and welfare of the people,” OVP said.
Regarding the Ayungin shoal incident, Locsin said that he has spoken to Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing to protest and condemn the incident, reminding them that even public vessels are covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States.
Earlier too, Malacañang said that the Philippine government would continue to assert its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the EEZ.
This is not the first time in 2021 that China was involved in intrusive activities over the WPS, despite the presence of the arbitral tribunal decision: in March 2021, the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) said that over 220 Chinese ships were spotted in line formation near the Julian Felipe Reef.
The reef is just 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan — well within the country’s EEZ.
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