The United States (US) said it stands with the Philippines amid the recent incident in Ayungin Shoal where Philippine supply boats were blocked and water cannoned by Chinese Coast Guard vessels, an act deemed illegal by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA.)
“The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of this escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Friday, Nov. 19, following the sea incident in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) on Nov. 16.
It cited the Arbitral ruling in 2016 that favored the Philippines, which “delivered a unanimous and enduring decision firmly rejecting the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) claims to Second Thomas Shoal and to waters determined to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.”
“The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision,” Price said.
“The PRC should not interfere with lawful Philippine activities in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Price added.
The US also reaffirmed that “an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”
“The United States strongly believes that PRC actions asserting its expansive and unlawful South China Sea maritime claims undermine peace and security in the region,” the US stressed.
The US support to the Philippines in terms of rules-based international maritime order is consistent to both sides’ view that China cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf.
Both countries recently reaffirmed their commitment in upholding the international law-based maritime order during their ninth bilateral strategic dialogue held on Nov. 15 to 16.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has slammed the acts of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels saying “we do not ask permission to do what we need to do in our territory.”
“The acts of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels are illegal. China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off,” Locsin said.