U.S. Stands Firm with the Philippines
In a resolute show of support, the United States government reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty on Monday. As tensions escalated in the South China Sea following China’s recent maritime confrontations near Ayungin Shoal, this aggressive posturing resulted in a collision between a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and a Philippine resupply boat. As a consequence, it prompted a stern response from Washington.
A Promise of Protection
The U.S. government declared its solidarity with the Philippines, condemning what it described as “dangerous maneuvers” by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard and maritime militia in the South China Sea. The State Department released a statement underscoring that Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to
“armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft,”
including Coast Guard vessels, anywhere in the South China Sea.
Collision at Ayungin Shoal
The incident in question occurred on October 22 when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel collided with a Philippine supply boat. The Philippine vessel was engaged in a routine resupply mission to the detachment stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal.
A Violation of International Law
The U.S. government delivered a stern warning to Beijing, emphasizing that any interference with the Philippines’ maritime activities in its sovereign waters is unlawful and undermines regional stability.
The collision, which experts labeled a breach of international law, resulted from “dangerous maneuvers” intentionally disrupting the high seas freedom of navigation that Philippine vessels were exercising. This action obstructed supply lines to a long-standing outpost, further destabilizing the region.
China Responds to the Accusations
In response to these accusations, Beijing released its version of events, asserting that it had acted “professionally and with restraint.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry explained that the Chinese Coast Guard vessels had been involved in law enforcement activities at the scene. They also acknowledged the presence of Chinese fishing vessels, which were purportedly conducting normal fishing operations.
Ayungin Shoal – A Disputed Territory
The Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, is a geographic feature located well within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. This has been a hotly contested region in the ongoing dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Philippines Vows to Protect Its Interests
Despite these provocations, National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed the Philippines’ unwavering commitment to safeguarding its interests in the West Philippine Sea. Año declared,
“We will not be deterred and we will continue to resupply our troops in BRP Sierra Madre despite provocations.”
A Legacy of Resilience
Additionally, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, the commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM), noted that the resupply missions have always been routine. Philippine sailors have consistently responded with patience and professionalism during these resupply missions.
Their aim has been to prevent accidents and any escalation of tensions during encounters with Chinese vessels in the region.
A Triumph of Professionalism
Newly appointed Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan underscored the significance of the recent resupply mission’s success, which demonstrated the AFP’s and PCG’s
“capability to manage and overcome provocative, irresponsible, and reckless conduct from their Chinese counterparts in a professional and resolute manner, without escalating tensions.”
Notably, the Philippine crew members involved in the collisions remained safe and unharmed.
Furthermore, in this latest chapter of the ongoing South China Sea dispute, the commitment of the United States to its ally, the Philippines, remains steadfast, underscoring the complexities and challenges in this region’s geopolitical landscape.