Philippines Increases Re-supply Missions to Disputed Shoal Amidst Chinese Claim of ‘Undisputed Sovereignty’

  • Bureau
  • 11:00 AM, October 7, 2023
  • 602
Philippines Increases Re-supply Missions to Disputed Shoal Amidst Chinese Claim of ‘Undisputed Sovereignty’
Satellite image of the disputed Panatag Shoal

The Philippines Armed Forces (PAF) announced an increase in re-supply missions to its personnel stationed on Ayungin Shoal even as the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) claimed its vessels “regulated” the PAF ships in waters surrounding the shoal over which it “undisputed sovereignty.

The dispute over Ayungin Shoal took a new turn when the CCG asserted its control over the surrounding waters, prompting a strong rebuke from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Colonel Medel Aguilar, AFP spokesperson, dismissed China's claim, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which negates sovereignty over such distant territories.

Aguilar stated, "The use of the word ‘indisputable’ is itself disputable for the reason that number one, the UNCLOS says that they don’t have sovereignty over the terrain. It’s very far. So, how can they exercise sovereignty?" This response came after CCG spokesperson Gan Yu asserted China's "indisputable sovereignty" over Ayungin Shoal, known as Ren'ai Reef in Beijing.

Gan accused Philippine supply ships and coast guard vessels of intruding into the adjacent waters of Ren'ai Reef without Chinese government permission and claimed that the CCG had regulated and monitored these vessels in accordance with the law.

Colonel Aguilar cited the July 12, 2016 ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which invalidated China's claims over the disputed waters. He also highlighted that no nation has endorsed China's claim over these contested areas.

In defiance of these tensions, the morale of Filipino troops stationed in the West Philippine Sea remains high, according to Aguilar. The Armed Forces' re-supply missions to Ayungin Shoal have become more frequent, driven by the needs of military personnel stationed there.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported another successful rotation and re-supply (RORE) mission for the BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57), stationed at Ayungin Shoal. This mission, conducted with the combined efforts of the Western Command (WesCom) and the Philippine Coast Guard, aimed to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipino military personnel despite Chinese attempts to obstruct it.

These re-supply missions underscore the Philippines' commitment to upholding its presence in the disputed areas in accordance with both domestic and international law. The situation in the West Philippine Sea continues to be a matter of concern and diplomatic efforts.

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