31st October 2023 – (Manila) The Philippines issued a strong plea to Beijing on Tuesday, urging China to act responsibly and put an end to its “aggressive” and “illegal” activities in the South China Sea. The Philippines refuted China’s claims that a Philippine military ship had trespassed, asserting that such allegations were untrue.
These statements were made following an announcement by the Chinese military on Monday, stating that a Philippine military vessel had “illegally entered” waters near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea without authorization. China issued a rare warning to Manila in response.
Medel Aguilar, spokesperson for the Philippine military, dismissed the Chinese claims, stating, “Not true. An illegal occupant cannot prevent the legitimate owner from entering his house and backyard.”
China seized control of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippines and has since maintained a constant presence of coastguard vessels and fishing trawlers, some of which Manila has accused of being part of a maritime militia.
The shoal, located 200km off the coast of the Philippines and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), was a focal point in a legal case brought by Manila to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In 2016, the court ruled that China’s claim to 90 per cent of the South China Sea had no basis under international law.
However, China has consistently refused to acknowledge the landmark ruling.
Tian Junli, spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command, stated on Monday that China had followed, monitored, warned, and blocked the Philippine ship in accordance with the law.
Nonetheless, the Philippines’ National Security Adviser refuted China’s claims, asserting that Philippine Ship 39, which was engaged in “routine patrol operations” around the shoal, did not illegally enter any territory under Chinese sovereignty.
Eduardo Ano, the National Security Adviser, stated in a press release, “China is again over-hyping this incident and creating unnecessary tensions between our two nations.”
China and the Philippines have experienced several confrontations in the South China Sea, with recent accusations traded regarding a collision between a Chinese coastguard vessel and a Philippine boat.
Last month, the Philippines removed a Chinese floating barrier near the Scarborough Shoal, known as Bajo de Masinloc in Manila and Huangyan Island in China. The shoal is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
“We urge China to act responsibly, respect UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), and adhere to the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, promote the rules-based international order, and cease its aggressive and illegal actions in Philippine waters,” Ano emphasized.