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Scrappy situation in the SCS

Manila Standard

We heard again Washington saying it is standing with its ally Manila as the former condemned Beijing’s dangerous actions against the lawful maritime operations of the Philippines in the South China Sea.

The echoes of the US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller were loud: “The PRC’s actions prevent normal personnel rotations and deprive Filipino service members at Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) of necessary provisions.

“This incident marks only the latest in the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost.”

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) smashed the China Coast Guard last weekend for damaging a Filipino supply vessel near the Ayungin Shoal with water cannon and injuring those on board.

The NTF-WPS rightly stressed the government “will not be deterred – by veiled threats or hostility – from exercising Manila’s legal rights over its maritime zones.

We join the authorities in condemning the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and its disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost.

The latest confrontation between Philippine and Chinese vessels came four days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Manila and said the US stood by its “ironclad” commitment to defend its longtime ally against armed attack in the South China Sea.

Miller reaffirmed that commitment, saying the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in South China.

China’s actions, immediately denounced by the Philippines and the United States, are indeed “destabilizing to the region and show clear disregard for international law.”

What is unnerving is China’s continuing belligerence despite what an international tribunal said in July 2016 that it has no lawful maritime claims to the waters around Second Thomas Shoal, a low-tide feature clearly within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

As provided under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the 2016 arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines, and China must abide by the ruling and desist from its dangerous and destabilizing conduct.

We note Washington “reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.”

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