The Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Saturday (19/8) that it would again seek to deploy troops stationed in World War II-era shipwrecks in the South China Sea. The move comes after Beijing blocked an earlier attempt by Manila to supply its troops with food by firing water cannons.
“This exercise of our right to sovereignty and jurisdiction is testament to our firm belief in a rules-based international order that underpins regional peace and stability,” armed forces spokesman Medel Aguilar said in a statement.
Manila launched a diplomatic protest against Beijing this month after the Chinese coast guard fired water cannons. They also called for “dangerous” maneuvers in an attempt to prevent the Philippines from sending supplies to the handful of troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, a statement rejected internationally. A number of Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines also have various claims over certain areas.
The Philippines calls on all relevant parties to respect its sovereignty and jurisdiction over its maritime zone, Aguilar said, adding that Manila supports a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China’s coast guard said on Aug. 7 it told the Philippines not to send ships to the shoal and not to send “construction materials used for large-scale repairs and reinforcements” to the warships.
The Philippines deliberately stationed the warship in 1999 as part of its claim of sovereignty over the shoal, which lies within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
The planned resupply mission “is a clear concrete evidence of our determination to resist threats and coercion, and our commitment to upholding the rule of law,” the armed forces said.
In 2016, an international arbitral award invalidated China’s claim to ownership of nearly all of the South China Sea.
China, which does not recognize the verdict, instead built artificial islands equipped with airstrips and surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea. (ah/ft)