President Rodrigo Duterte said there can be no real peace if strong nations bully the weak as he reminded fellow leaders participating in the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting that the rule of law should prevail in areas where there are maritime disputes.
“There can be no real peace if the strong trample on the weak – just because it can,” Duterte said without naming China, whose Coast Guard vessels Duterte…recently attacked Filipino boats in Ayungin Shoal, which is well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
“Ours is a region full of promise but fraught with potential flashpoints. These include disputes in one of the world’s most important sea lanes of communication.”
On Thursday, the Philippines rejected China’s demand that it remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre ship from the Ayungin Shoal, saying it was the Chinese who were trespassers in the West Philippine Sea.
The statement came after China demanded the Philippine government "honor its commitment" and remove the grounded ship, which is used by Philippine marines stationed there.
"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 a long time ago," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
"Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 UNCLOS which China ratified. China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of," he said in a Facebook post.
"Furthermore, the 2016 Arbitral award ruled that the territorial claim of China has no historic nor legal basis. Ergo, we can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing," he added.
The Defense chief said Manila has two documents to prove that it has sovereign rights in this EEZ while Beijing has none.
“They don't have this and their claim doesn't have a basis," he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Wednesday night insisted that the Ayungin Shoal is part of China’s waters and said the resumption of Manila's resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre was "a provisional, special arrangement out of humanitarian considerations."
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), meanwhile, branded these latest Chinese remarks as mere "wolf warrior" release—referring to the aggressive style of diplomacy adopted by Chinese diplomats under President Xi Jinping's administration.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. emphasized that China has "no law enforcement rights” in and around the Ayungin Shoal.