Sat. Jan 29th, 2022

The Philippines will fully exercise its sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang reiterated on Friday.

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Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles made the statement in reaction to China’s demand for the Philippine government to “honor its commitment” and remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

The Chinese Coast Guard blocked and fired water cannons at two Philippine boats transporting supplies to military personnel of the BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal on November 16.

The move drew international criticisms and from President Rodrigo Duterte himself, who said the incident “does not speak well of relations” between Manila and Beijing.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called it “an affront to the Filipino people”.

Nograles said the Ayungin Shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“President Duterte has repeatedly reiterated this in various summits, as well as in his speech before the United Nations. We refer to the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and arbitral award that Ayungin is within our EEZ. It is part of our territory) and we will fully exercise our sovereign rights over our territory,” Nograles said in a Palace press briefing in Filipino.

Lorenzana had refuted anew China’s claims in the Ayungin Shoal, describing the Chinese as the actual trespassers.

“As far as I know there is no such commitment. That ship has been there since 1999. If there was (a) commitment it would have been removed a long time ago,” Lorenzana said.

The defense chief reiterated that Manila has two documents to prove that it has sovereign rights in this EEZ while Beijing has none.

“I have told the Chinese Ambassador (Huang Xilian) that no one can prevent us from doing what we have to lawfully do within the West Philippine Sea, an area where we have sovereign rights by international laws,” Lorenzana added in a statement.

The 2016 Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS had ruled that the Ayungin Shoal lies within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile EEZ and continental shelf, a decision recognized by the international community, including the United States, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, and the European Union.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Wednesday night insisted that the Ayungin Shoal is part of its waters and went on claiming that the resumption of Manila’s resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre is “a provisional, special arrangement out of humanitarian considerations.”

“China demands that the Philippine side honor its commitment and remove its grounded vessel on Ren’ai Jiao (Ayungin Shoal). This position remains unchanged,” he said in a statement.

He also indicated the Chinese Coast Guard’s continued presence in the area, saying it “patrolled” and “monitored from start to end the Philippine side’s supply delivery activities.”

The infrastructure unit of the Aboitiz Group is looking to partake in the country’s economic recovery as it sets sights on project opportunities in the industrial development, water, digital infrastructure, and transport sectors.

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