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Philippines tells PRC it will not abandon post in disputed reef


The Philippines told the People’s Republic of China (PRC) it will not abandon a disputed shoal in the South China Sea after it accused China’s coast guard of using water cannons and dangerous moves to prevent Manila from sending supplies to its troops occupying the reef.

Likening the August 2023 incident to a “David vs Goliath situation,” Jonathan Malaya, a senior Philippine National Security Council (NSC) official, said the increased People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) presence at the Second Thomas Shoal will not deter the Philippines’ resolve to protect its position there.

“We will never abandon Ayungin Shoal,” Malaya said, using its local name, as he dismissed Beijing’s call for Manila to remove its warship from the atoll where it was intentionally grounded in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines’ sovereignty claims.

“We will continue to resupply troops in the grounded vessel as long as it takes,” Malaya said in a joint news conference with the military, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and foreign ministry.

“It is our right to bring what is necessary to maintain the station and to be sure that our troops there are properly provisioned.”

Beijing said it had earlier told Manila not to send ships to the shoal and not to send “construction materials used for large-scale repair and reinforcement” to the warship after it learned of this recent supply plan, the Chinese Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry claims that the Philippines’ move violated China’s sovereignty. The PRC claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, an assertion rejected internationally and invalidated by an international tribunal in 2016. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have various claims to certain areas in the sea.

The Chinese coast guard’s use of water cannons in early August 2023 was not the first, as it also sprayed water at Manila’s boats on a mission to supply food and water for a handful of troops living aboard the warship in Nov. 2021.

The PLA’s latest actions, which the Philippine military described as “excessive,” undermine efforts to strengthen trust between Manila and Beijing and underline the “dire need” for a code of conduct, the foreign ministry’s spokesperson said.

Ties between the Philippines and the PRC have grown tense under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with Manila pivoting back to its traditional ally, the U.S., which has expressed its support for Manila in the face of the PRC’s threats.

Marcos said his country had relayed its complaint to the Chinese ambassador in Manila, whom the foreign ministry had summoned.

No one was hurt during the August incident at the shoal, but one of the two Philippine boats, which were transporting supplies, failed to complete its mission.


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