WASHINGTON D.C. raised the decibel level of the American voice, supporting the Philippines in the face of the new dangerous incident conducted by the Chinese Coast Guard and its militias in the West Philippine Sea.
“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions obstructing an October 22 Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea,” Matthew Miller, spokesman of the US State Department, said in a statement.
Second Thomas Shoal is the international name for Ayungin Shoal, a low-tide elevation located some 190 nautical miles away from the coastline of Palawan.
Pentagon’s spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder echoed the statement of support to the Philippines in a separate tweet.
On October 22, the resupply boat carrying provisions for soldiers stationed at BRP Sierra Madre grounded on the shoal were blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard. The boat’s rear hit the Chinese vessels’ front. The brief collision was repeated between Chinese militias and Philippine Coast Guard.
“The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft—including those of its Coast Guard—anywhere in the South China Sea,” Miller said.
Miller said the Chinese conduct put at risk “Filipino crew members’ safety and impeded critically needed supplies from reaching service members stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.”
“Obstructing supply lines to this long-standing outpost and interfering with lawful Philippine maritime operations undermines regional stability,” he added.
The US reminded that based on the United Nations-backed tribunal decision in 2016, China’s territorial claim over Ayungin Shoal has no legal basis.
Manila-based international think tank Stratbase ADR Institute said the latest incident warrants the need of like-minded states in the region to hold joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
“In the face of these growing challenges on the ground, the Institute fully recommends the immediate conduct of regular joint patrols with like-minded states such as the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and the European Union in the West Philippine Sea,” Stratbase said in a statement.
Spokespersons of the agencies of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said this suggestion can be taken up by the “higher-ups.”
More countries supporting PHL
Aside from the US, more countries have expressed their support through their embassies here in Manila.
■ British Ambassador Laure Beaufils: UK is very concerned by reports of unsafe conduct towards Philippines vessels on their latest resupply mission to the Ayungin Shoal. UK joins the Philippines in calling for adherence to UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral award. We oppose actions which raise tensions in the South China Sea.
■ French Embassy: France expresses its deep concern regarding the dangerous maneuvers observed in the South China Sea, which caused two collisions between Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Philippine vessels engaged in the Philippine exclusive economic zone. France calls for respect of the freedom of navigation guaranteed by international law and recalls its attachment to the UNCLOS and the decision rendered by the Arbitral Court on July 12, 2016
■ Danish Ambassador Franz Michael Mellbin: Deeply concerned at the two collisions provoked by Chinese Coast Guard against Philippine vessels near Ayungin Shoal, putting the lives of Filipino soldiers at risk. China’s acts of intimidation and refusal to abide by the 2016 Arbitral ruling undermines regional stability.
■ Czech Embassy: We are concerned about both gravity and frequency of the incidents in the South China Sea. We urge all parties to respect their UNCLOS/ international law obligations.
■ New Zealand Embassy: NZ is deeply concerned at Sunday’s actions towards the Philippines in its EEZ, with physical contact between vessels heightening risk to safety and undermining regional stability. NZ again calls on all parties to engage in peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with UNCLOS.
On Sunday, ambassadors from Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, The Netherlands and the European Union immediately released a statement expressing support to the Philippines.
DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza thanked the Philippine government’s partners in the international community for “their steadfast support in the defense of the rules-based international order.”
“Their statements of support show the level of concern that the international community has over persistent efforts to undermine UNCLOS,” Daza said.
Image credits: AP/Aaron Favila