Amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, China has reiterated its demand for the removal of BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded Philippine military vessel at Ayungin Shoal. The demand comes in the aftermath of a water cannon incident by the China Coast Guard (CCG) during a recent resupply mission conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard.
In a statement issued by its embassy in Manila, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that the Philippine government had allegedly promised on multiple occasions to tow away the military vessel. The embassy cited events dating back to 1999 when the Philippines deliberately ran the vessel aground at Ayungin Shoal that it calls Ren’ai Jiao, aiming to alter the status quo in the area.
Beijing defended the actions of its Coast Guard, stating they acted appropriately and professionally in stopping the Philippine vessels, claiming that their actions were restrained and beyond criticism.
China accused the Philippine vessels of attempting to transport construction materials to refurbish and reinforce the stranded BRP Sierra Madre, seen as the Philippines’ stronghold over Ayungin Shoal.
The Chinese statement further accused the Philippines of seeking to permanently occupy Ayungin Shoal by overhauling and reinforcing the military vessel, despite China’s repeated dissuasion and warning. China asserted that such actions violated its sovereignty and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
In response to the incident, the Philippine government summoned the Chinese Ambassador and lodged a note verbale. Additionally, several countries, including the United States, the European Union, Australia, and Japan, expressed support for the Philippines and voiced concern over China’s actions.