By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
On Monday, the Philippines filed a diplomatic complaint against China and requested a meeting with their representative in Manila. This was in response to an incident on Sunday where Chinese ships collided with Philippine vessels attempting to provide food and supplies to Filipino soldiers stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
The presidential palace released a statement saying that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. held a meeting with security agencies to address China’s recent breach in the West Philippine Sea, which includes parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The Philippine Coast Guard was directed to carry out an investigation, following international maritime laws, regarding the happenings during the rotation and resupply trip to Ayungin Shoal by China Coast Guard ships.
The government is giving serious attention to the incident, stating that the Chinese Coast Guard’s actions, which were deemed dangerous, illegal, and reckless, resulted in damage to a Philippine vessel.
The US restated its commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines, which requires both nations to come to each other’s aid in the event of a military attack.
The US State Department stated that the Chinese ships breached international regulations by deliberately obstructing the Philippine vessels’ ability to freely navigate in international waters.
In a statement, it was reported that the recent incidents involving dangerous actions on October 22 and the use of water cannons by the People’s Republic of China on August 5 against a Philippine vessel are just a few of the many instances of aggressive actions in the South China Sea. These actions aim to assert their unjustified and excessive territorial claims, showing a lack of respect for other nations lawfully present in the area.
The 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty includes a clause that states armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft within the South China Sea are covered.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila reported that it had made strong complaints to the Philippines regarding the intrusion of Philippine ships at Second Thomas Shoal.
China once again requested that the Philippines cease causing disturbance and inciting conflict at sea, and put an end to unjustified attacks and defamation against China.
According to spokesperson Ma. Teresita C. Daza, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department requested the presence of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, but he was unavailable due to being out of town.
The Chinese Embassy’s deputy chief of mission received a diplomatic protest during a meeting on Monday morning, according to the speaker. They also mentioned that the communication mechanism established earlier this year to ease tensions between the two countries had limited effectiveness.
Ms. Daza expressed concerns about the Chinese vessels’ risky actions towards the Philippine resupply mission on Sunday, which has raised doubts about the Chinese side’s sincerity regarding the South China Sea issue.
She stated separately that Ayungin Shoal falls under our exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and we hold sovereignty and control over it.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea reported that China Coast Guard vessel 5203 crashed into an indigenous resupply boat contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 13.5 nautical miles (25 kilometers) east-northeast of BRP Sierra Madre on Sunday.
A ship from the Chinese maritime militia collided with a Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel while escorting a resupply mission approximately 6.4 nautical miles northeast of the shoal.
The Philippines intentionally beached the BRP Sierra Madre, a ship from World War II, at the Second Thomas Shoal (known as Ayungin in the Philippines) in 1999 to demonstrate its ownership of the area. This shoal falls within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The US and Canadian embassies in Manila denounced the actions of the Chinese vessels, citing the potential danger they posed to the Filipino crew.
During the briefing, Philippine National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan M. Malaya reported that one of the two boats, Unaizah Mae 2, which was contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the mission, was damaged due to a collision. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
He reiterated his demand for China to cease its “provocative actions,” cautioning that its ongoing efforts to obstruct Philippine resupply missions could lead to catastrophic consequences.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Jay Tristan T. Tarriela stated that the damage was more significant than a scratch. However, a thorough evaluation of the boat’s seaworthiness will be conducted once it has returned to port.
He stated that the reason she couldn’t deliver the supplies was not due to the damage she sustained, but because of the presence of two Chinese maritime militia vessels and the Chinese Coast Guard following behind.
He stated that the Chinese vessels continued “pushing” the boat away from Second Thomas Shoal, despite the damage.
According to Mr. Malaya, the Chinese Coast Guard showed no concern for the condition of the vessel, regardless of any damage or seaworthiness. He pointed out that the militia ships were larger than the two Philippine vessels that accompanied the resupply boats.
According to Mr. Tarriela, five ships from the Chinese Coast Guard were involved in shadowing, performing dangerous maneuvers, and blocking the resupply mission. Additionally, eight ships from the Chinese maritime militia also blocked the ships from the Philippines.
At 9 p.m. on Saturday, according to Mr. Tarriela, two Chinese Coast Guard ships began following the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Cabra before the AFP-contracted civilian ships could arrive at the location.
At the beginning of the mission on Sunday morning, two Chinese militia ships encircled BRP Cabra in order to keep it away from the supply boats. Once the escort ship was trapped, the Chinese Coast Guard purposely moved into the path of the Philippine vessel Unaizah Mae 2, causing a collision.
According to Philippine officials, the Sunday operation achieved partial success as only the Unaizah Mae 1 managed to successfully deliver supplies to BRP Sierra Madre.
During a press conference following his meeting with security authorities, Mr. Marcos was joined by Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. who accused China of intentionally concealing the facts surrounding the incident.
This was a significant increase in the unlawful actions carried out by China in the West Philippine Sea.
He refuted China’s assertion of exhibiting self-control. “Any impartial individual would recognize that this is not self-control, and there was another effort to manipulate the story.”
During the briefing, Vice Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan of the Philippine Coast Guard stated that the actions of the Chinese were clear breaches of collision regulations.
He announced that the coast guard will conduct an investigation into the occurrences and present a report to the President via the Transportation department.
According to Joshua Bernard Espeña, a professor of international relations at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the event does not bode well for the potential of Philippines-China relations in the future.
According to a conversation on Messenger, the current administration under Marcos is likely to cause a significant decline in relations between the Philippines and China. The speaker also mentioned the difference between provoking and deterring China.
He suggested that the government prioritize obtaining military capabilities and strengthening relationships with foreign allies.