‘Trespassing’ China should observe Unclos–Lorenzana


CHINA should honor its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) by leaving Ayungin Shoal instead of demanding that the Philippines remove the partly sunken BRP Sierra Madre from the area.

“Ayungin lies inside our EEZ which we have sovereign rights. Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 Unclos which China ratified,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday.

He was reacting to the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement on Wednesday demanding that Manila honor its supposed word of removing the Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal.

But Lorenzana said he does not know of any commitments involving the removal of the ship, which is being used as an outpost by Marine troops guarding the shoal.  The area came into focus last week when two Chinese Coast Guard vessels attacked with water cannons for an hour the Filipino civilian ships on a resupply mission to the Sierra Madre after blocking them to prevent them from entering Ayungin.

“As far as I know there is no such commitment. That ship has been there since 1999. If there was a commitment it would have been removed long time ago,” he said.

Instead of issuing narratives to justify its illegal presence in Ayungin Shoal, Beijing should comply with its obligations under Unclos, to which it was a signatory.

“China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of. Furthermore, the Arbitral award ruled that the territorial  claim of China has no historic nor legal basis,” he said.

“We can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing. We have two documents proving that we have sovereign  rights over our EEZ while they do not have, and their claims have no basis,” he added.

Lorenzana said the situation in Ayungin “is calm and normal” after Tuesday’s delivery of supplies to the soldiers aboard the Sierra Madre. On Tuesday last week, Chinese Coast Guard vessels attacked with water cannons the two ships bringing the supplies, thus
aborting the mission.

Integrity Index

Meanwhile, Lorenzana took note of the published Government Defence Integrity Index 2020 report from Transparency International which ranked the Philippines in “Band C.”

The report classified the Philippines as having “moderate” risk overall,“ making it the only Asean country together with Singapore to be in the same bracket.

Other countries in Band C include Australia, Canada, South Korea and the United States.

“We believe that our Defense System of Management, which institutionalizes our judicious use of resources in our acquisitions for the continued improvement of our defense capabilities as well as our consistent upholding of transparency and accountability in all our procurement processes played a great part in achieving our rating by Transparency International,” Lorenzana said in a statement through DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong.

China to PHL: Remove ship

The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement earlier in response to claims by Lorenzana that China continues to harass and intimidate the Philippine transport boats that carried food supplies to soldiers stationed in Ayungin Shoal.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian insisted Ayungin Shoal (international name: Second Thomas Shoal, Chinese name: Ren’ai Jiao) is part of China’s Nansha Qundao” or South China Sea.

“China demands that the Philippine side honor its commitment and remove its grounded vessel on Ren’ai Jiao. This position remains unchanged,” Zhao said during a media briefing in Beijing.

In 1999, the Philippines, despite its lack of naval flotilla to monitor the country’s vast coastline, had deliberately run aground the vintage ship Sierra Madre. It happened five years after Manila discovered Beijijng’s occupation and reclamation of Panganiban Reef (international name: Mischief Reef), some 40 kilometers away west of Ayungin Shoal. A small contingent of Marine soldiers are deployed to guard the shoal ever since.

This week, the Philippine supply boats resumed their resupply mission, but Lorenzana complained that the Chinese Coast Guard still deployed a team on a tugboat near the shoal and took pictures and video of the unloading of food supplies.

Zhao insisted that China allowed the Philippine transport boat to pass through Ayungin Shoal “out of humanitarian considerations” and that the access provided to the Philippine boat “is a provisional and special arrangement.”

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