No commitment to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal — NSC

No commitment to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal � NSC
This file photo taken on April 23, 2023 shows the grounded Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre where marines are stationed to assert Manila's territorial claims at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines did not make any commitment to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal, the National Security Council said Tuesday after China renewed calls for the removal of the grounded vessel. 

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed Monday that Manila had promised “several times” to tow away BRP Sierra Madre—a rusty World War II-era ship that serves as the country’s outpost in the West Philippine Sea—“but has yet to act on it.” 

NSC spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, however, said this alleged commitment of the Philippines is a “figment of their imagination.”

“The Philippines has not and will never agree to abandon its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Ayungin Shoal,” Malaya said. 

In 1999, the Philippine Navy intentionally grounded BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claim in the Spratly Islands. Ayungin Shoal is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. 

Beijing claims the majority of the South China Sea, including parts that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea, as its own, using a “nine-dash line” on maps that an arbitration ruling in 2016 declared has no legal basis. 

Tensions between Manila and Beijing escalated again Saturday after the China Coast Guard blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine boats on a resupply mission for troops deployed on BRP Sierra Madre, preventing one of the charter boats from reaching Ayungin Shoal. 

The government condemned China’s maneuvers as dangerous and illegal. The Philippines has issued 445 diplomatic protests over Beijing’s presence and activities in the West Philippine Sea since 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. 

China defended its coast guard’s actions, saying they were “professional, restrained and beyond reproach.” 

Intensified patrol

The country’s coast guard will intensify maritime patrols in Ayungin shoal, Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the PCG on WPS matters, told ABS-CBN News Channel Tuesday. 

“If there’s another resupply mission, we might probably add additional coast guard vessels to support the operation,” Tarriela said. 

He added that the PCG may deploy its larger vessels to support resupply missions. 

China’s coast guard, navy and maritime militia vessels routinely block or shadow Philippine patrol and supply boats.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Monday the government will continue to assert the country’s territorial rights. 

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