The BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57) stays in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), military chief, Lt. Gen. Andres Centino said Sunday.
“No we are not moving LT-57 or the BRP Sierra Madre, it has been there since 1999. It is a permanent government post manned by our personnel from the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and it is there as a haven for our fishermen who would go to the shoal. And it is used in monitoring (of) the safety at sea and it is there for us to assert our sovereign rights considering that is within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
China earlier demanded the Philippine government to “honor its commitment” and remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.
“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,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said.
He underscored that Ayungin Shoal lies within the Philippines’ EEZ where it has sovereign rights.
Centino added that the ship is there to ensure that no international or foreign vessel will enter the area.
He said they do not see any possibility of the BRP Sierra Madre being attacked as it is located in the shoal.
“We don’t see any remote possibility of (of the BRP) Sierra Madre being attacked considering it within the shoal, its shallow waters prevent the ship(s) from going in and one important thing is that we don’t really see that happening because we have open communications with the Chinese government and see that this can be resolved, I mean incidents like this can be resolved peacefully,” he said.
A water cannon attack on the BRP Sierra Madre, he said, cannot be considered an armed attack although it can be considered as a “hostile” one.
When asked how the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States can be invoked, Centino said this would depend on the type of attack.
“It would depend on the type of attack, as in the provisions of the MDT, in Article 2 and Article 4, it specifically stated that only in the case of an armed (attack) can we invoke MDT,” he said.
He added: “Well we have the MDT between the (two) countries, it was signed in 1951 and put in effect the year after, we see that perhaps that the evolving security we can perhaps consider, (the) two governments can perhaps consider the studying, perhaps a revision on some provisions that would ensure that there is indeed mutual agreement between the two countries.”