Philippines says China approval not needed to access Ayungin Shoal

Philippines says China approval not needed to access Ayungin Shoal
This handout photo grabbed from a video released by the Philippine Coast Guard on June 7, 2024 shows Chinese Coast Guard personnel aboard their rigid inflatable boat, blocking a Philippine Coast Guard rigid inflatable boat (back) carrying marine scientists in the waters of the South China Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard said on June 7, that Chinese boats "harassed" their vessel during a medical evacuation last month of a Filipino soldier, who was stationed on a remote outpost in the South China Sea.
Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Saturday rejected China's claim that permission is needed to access Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año called the Chinese Foreign Ministry's statement that Manila must notify Beijing before accessing Ayungin Shoal as "absurd, nonsense, and unacceptable."

"We do not and will never need China's approval for any of our activities therein," Año said in a statement. 

He stressed that Ayungin Shoal is well within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as recognized by international law and the 2016 Arbitral Award. Beijing dismisses the international ruling rejecting its expansive claims over the South China Sea. ‘

"We emphasize that the Philippines will continue to maintain and supply our outposts in the West Philippine Sea, including the BRP Sierra Madre, without seeking permission from any other nation," Año said. 

"Our operations are conducted within our own territorial waters and EEZ, and we will not be deterred by foreign interference or intimidation," he added. 

Philippine troops are stationed at BRP Sierra Madre, the rusting warship deliberately grounded on Ayungin Shoal in 1999. 

Beijing on Friday said China will allow Filipinos to access Ayungin Shoal, but only if they inform Chinese officials beforehand. 

The comment was in response to the Philippine Coast Guard's (PCG) report that the China Coast Guard (CCG) attempted to block and harass a medical evacuation in the West Philippine Sea last month. 

Año called the actions of CCG as "barbaric and inhumane." He also criticized China for seizing food and medical supplies intended for troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre. 

"Nonetheless, the Philippines remains open to dialogue and peaceful negotiations to resolve disputes in the entire South China Sea. However, such dialogue must be based on mutual respect and adherence to international law," the security adviser said. 

The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime territorial disputes, but tensions have escalated under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

The CCG has collided with and used water cannons against Philippine boats in waters claimed by Manila as its own. These incidents resulted in injuries to Filipino troops. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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