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Protecting Filipinos during resupply missions

Manila Standard

Discomfiting, the latest developments in the Ayungin Shoal area, physically within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

We heard the Philippine Navy say in precise terms that China’s increased aggression against Filipino soldiers in the West Philippine Sea seeks to provoke the country into “firing the first shot.”

Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said: “They (the Chinese) would like to push us to fire the first shot..that’s the battle. You should understand. [The] Chinese thought we will retaliate inappropriately.”

Trinidad issued the statement after seven Filipino troops — including one who lost a thumb during the incident — were hurt while performing the latest rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal or the Second Thomas Shoal, only 105 miles west of Palawan.

Members of the Chinese Coast Guard personnel also boarded the Philippines’ rigid-hulled inflatable boats and seized some firearms.

We heard Senate President Francis Escudero say the Senate will seek a “full briefing” from the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding the latest incident in Ayungin Shoal.

In a statement, Escudero expressed concern and said “The escalation of tensions in the West Philippine Sea is alarming, and the Senate will be seeking a full briefing from the DFA on the latest incident, as well as the efforts being undertaken to address this.”

Pending the briefing, Escudero reiterated his call for dialogues between Philippine and Chinese officials to prevent the further escalation of tension in the region.

The Philippines, through the DFA, and the Pentagon have similarly separately denounced the incident.

We agree with Escudero the DFA “should go beyond the filing of diplomatic protests each time an incident occurs, and must explore every means to conduct a meaningful dialogue with their counterparts from Beijing with the end in view of avoiding further escalation, without giving up any of our rights and privileges in our claimed territory vis-a-vis theirs.”

The AFP last Tuesday confirmed a Philippine Navy service member suffered “severe injury” following a collision between a Chinese ship and a Philippine vessel performing a RORE mission in Ayungin Shoal in the WPS. .

China claims almost the entire South China Sea under its mythical nine-dash line, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Philippine government sued China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. The Court ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016 when it junked China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

We are disquited while keenly watching developments.

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