Letters to the Editor

BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal

The Philippine Star

The presence of the BRP Sierra Madre, deliberately grounded by the Philippines in 1999, serves as a symbol of the nation’s commitment to defending its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of China’s aggressive claims in the South China Sea. Despite the dilapidated state of the ship, its significance transcends its physical condition, embodying the Philippines’ unwavering resolve to safeguard its interests amid escalating tensions in the region.

China’s unfounded claims over Ayungin Shoal, known as Ren’ai Jiao to the Chinese, stand in stark contrast to international law and historical evidence. The Philippines’ legal and historical rights to Ayungin Shoal are firmly rooted in its proximity to Philippine territory and its consistent administration by Filipino authorities. The grounding of the Sierra Madre was a response to China’s illegal occupation of Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in 1995, underscoring the Philippines’ assertion of its sovereignty and its determination to resist external aggression.

The presence of the Sierra Madre also carries significant legal implications, particularly in light of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States. The MDT obligates the United States to respond to armed attacks against the Philippines, thereby providing a deterrent against any attempts by China to forcibly remove the grounded ship. Retired US Col. Raymond Powell rightly emphasizes the treaty’s relevance in deterring Chinese aggression and ensuring the Philippines’ security in the region.

Moreover, China’s attempts to undermine the Philippines’ position through economic inducements and coercion highlight the importance of international solidarity and support for the Philippines’ rightful claims. While China may seek to exploit divisions within ASEAN to advance its own interests, it is imperative for member-states to remain steadfast in upholding the principles of international law and defending the rights of smaller nations against bullying tactics.

The ongoing diplomatic protests lodged by the Philippines against China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea underscore the country’s commitment to resolving disputes peacefully and upholding the rule of law. By asserting its rights in Ayungin Shoal and maintaining a presence aboard the Sierra Madre, the Philippines sends a clear message to the international community: that it will not cower in the face of Chinese intimidation and will continue to assert its sovereign rights over its maritime territories.

In conclusion, the grounding of the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal represents more than just a strategic military move – it symbolizes the Philippines’ unwavering commitment to defending its sovereignty, upholding international law and resisting attempts at coercion and intimidation by an assertive neighbor. As the Philippines continues to assert its rights in the South China Sea, it is imperative for the international community to stand in solidarity with the Philippines and support its efforts to peacefully resolve disputes and safeguard regional stability. – Ezekiel Manaois, [email protected]

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March 18, 2024 - 12:00am
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