China claims PH intruded into waters off Ren’ai Reef

5:24 pm on 14 February 2023, Tuesday

By Patricia Francia Lachica

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin claimed the Philippines “intruded into the waters off the Ren’ai Reef,” as the Chinese Coast Guard only upheld China’s sovereignty and acted in a “professional and restrained way.”

This came after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that a Chinese Coast Guard directed a military-grade laser light at the PCG vessel BRP Malapascua on Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on February 6.

“On February 6, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel intruded into the waters off the Ren’ai Reef without Chinese permission. In accordance with China’s domestic law and international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the China Coast Guard ship upheld China’s sovereignty and maritime order and acted in a professional and restrained way,” said Wang.

The spokesperson then expressed hope that the Philippines will “respect” China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea, and avoid taking any actions that may worsen disputes and complicate the situation.

Wang likewise said China and the Philippines are in communication on the situation through diplomatic channels.

US backs PH assertion

Meanwhile, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price released a statement in support of the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the South China Sea.

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard’s reported use of laser devices against the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard ship on February 6 in the South China Sea,” Price said.

He then claimed that China’s actions were “provocative and unsafe,” which resulted in the temporary blindness of PH crew members and “interfering with the Philippines’ lawful operations in and around Second Thomas Shoal.”

“More broadly, the PRC’s dangerous operational behavior directly threatens regional peace and stability, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order,” Price added.

The United States likewise called on China to abide by the 2016 arbitral decision under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard in the South China Sea, would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” the spokesperson concluded.

DFA files diplomatic protest

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently announced that it protested “the latest aggressive activities of the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) against Philippine official vessels in the Ayungin Shoal, including dangerous maneuvers and the use of a military-grade laser on members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).”

The said diplomatic protest release condemned the “shadowing, harassment, dangerous maneuvers, directing of military-grade laser, and illegal radio challenges by CCG vessel 5205 against PCG vessel BRP Malapascua on 6 February 2023.”

“The Philippines has the prerogative to conduct legitimate activities within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. China does not have law enforcement rights or powers in and around Ayungin Shoal or any part of the Philippine EEZ,” DFA Spokesperson Teresita Daza asserted.

“These acts of aggression by China are disturbing and disappointing as it closely follows the state visit to China of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in early January during which he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to manage maritime differences through diplomacy and dialogue, without resorting to force and intimidation,” she added.

In January 2023, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines, since 2016, had filed 461 diplomatic protests against China over territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.


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