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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

NSC chief rejects asking Ayungin permit from China, calls it ‘absurd, unacceptable’

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National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said on Saturday that the statement of China’s Foreign Ministry that we should first notify China to get access to Ayungin Shoal is “absurd, nonsense and unacceptable.”

“We reaffirm our commitment to uphold our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Ayungin Shoal, which is well within our EEZ as recognized by international law and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” Año said in a statement.

“We do not and will never need China’s approval for any of our activities therein,” he added.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it will only “allow” the Philippines to ship supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre if the country “notifies China in advance”.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that the Philippines “may not use this as an excuse to transport materials of construction to its naval vessels in an attempt to permanently occupy Renai Reef [Second Thomas Shoal].”

The comment from the Chinese Foreign Ministry was a response to the Philippine Coast Guard’s report that China interrupted the evacuation of Filipino servicemen bound for medical treatment.

Año likewise called out China’s earlier incursions in the West Philippine Sea, calling them “reprehensible” and should warrant an inquiry.

“The incident on May 19, 2024, involving the China Coast Guard’s aggressive actions against a Filipino vessel evacuating a sick soldier from the BRP Sierra Madre is barbaric and inhumane. Such actions are not only violations of international maritime laws but also of basic human rights,” Año said.

“The recent reports of Chinese forces allegedly seizing food and medical supplies meant for our advance post in Ayungin Shoal are equally reprehensible and warrant a thorough investigation and accountability,” he also added.

The Philippines will continue its maintenance and supply operations to its outposts, including the BRP Sierra Madre, without need of China’s permission.

“Nonetheless, the Philippines remains open to dialogue and peaceful negotiations to resolve disputes in the entire South China Sea,” Año said.

“However, such dialogue must be based on mutual respect and adherence to international law. We call on China to respect the arbitral ruling and to cease any actions that escalate tensions or undermine regional stability.”

Meanwhile, in a forum led by international think tank, Stratbase ADR Institute, in partnership with the Embassy of Australia in the Philippines, maritime specialists say that stronger partnerships with like-minded nations are crucial in improving maritime and economic security in the region.

The hybrid event titled “Forging Bonds: Exploring the Nexus Between Maritime Security and Economic Security” was held in Makati City on Thursday.

Acting Deputy Ambassador Johanna Stratton of the Embassy of Australia in the Philippines opened the discussion by emphasizing the “unprecedented” maritime cooperation between Manila and Canberra.

She also stressed the need for alliances to ensure “a stable and secure Indo-Pacific region, where our maritime and marine environments are protected.”

“Australia is deeply concerned when countries pursue claims or engage in activities that are inconsistent with international law, when they undertake activities that are provocative and destabilizing, when they don’t respect the freedoms and rights of others, and when they advance their claims by intimidation or coercion,” Stratton said.

Stratbase President Dindo Manhit said bolstering cooperation with partners like Australia is a tactical move.

“We, at Stratbase ADRi, believe that enhanced cooperation with like-minded states is key to the Philippines achieving both maritime and economic security, and ultimately, promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Manhit said.

He added that amid geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges, such partnerships are strategically necessary to foster regional stability and prosperity.

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