Chinese vessel spotted as PH boats reach Ayungin Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 23)— The Philippine resupply boats harassed by Chinese vessels last week safely arrived in Ayungin Shoal on Tuesday, according to the Defense department.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two boats manned by the Navy arrived in Ayungin at 11 a.m. “without any untoward incident.” He said the vessels will return to Oyster Bay in Palawan in a few days.

Lorenzana, however, noted that authorities still spotted a Chinese Coast Guard ship within the area.

“[They] sent a rubber boat with three persons near the (BRP) Sierra Madre while our boats were unloading and took photos and videos,” Lorenzana revealed.

"I have communicated to the Chinese ambassador that we consider these acts as a form of intimidation and harassment," he added.

On Nov. 16, three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and fired water cannon on the two Philippine boats which were transporting supplies to military personnel in Ayungin Shoal, part of the Kalayaan Island Group.

But the East Asian giant refuted this, claiming that the Philippine boats “trespassed” into its waters “without consent.”

President Rodrigo Duterte — who has developed close ties with China during his tenure — slammed Beijing’s recent activities in the area. The chief executive called on stakeholders to avoid tensions and work peacefully to resolve disputes in line with international law.

Ayungin, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, is located 104 nautical miles west of Palawan and is well within the Philippines' 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

In 1999, the Philippine military deliberately ran aground the World War II-era warship Sierra Madre at the shoal to fortify the country's claim and provide shelter to a small contingent of Filipino marines.

The Philippines maintains it has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Kalayaan island group. However, China has been claiming the area through a historic nine-dash line, which a 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling has invalidated.