We are heartened to see the government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. taking a new course of action with respect to sail position in the West Philippine Sea.
This follows aggressive actions of China in the area, the latest when a China Coast Guard ship beamed a “military grade” laser at some crew of the Philippine Coast Guard in an area within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The PCG claimed the Chinese Coast Guard also “made dangerous maneuvers” in approaching within 137 meters of its vessel on February 6 near Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, in the Spratly Islands chain, known in China as the Nansha Islands.
Understandably, China’s Foreign Ministry said the Philippine vessel “trespassed into the waters of Renai Reef without the permission of the Chinese side.”
“The Chinese maritime police vessel defended China’s sovereignty and maritime order in accordance with China’s domestic law and international law,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, without specifying what action the Chinese side took.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, as well as most of the islands within it, which includes the Spratlys, an archipelago of 100 small islands and reefs also claimed in full or in part separately by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
In 2012, China forcibly took control of Scarborough Shoal, which lies 229 kms or 124 nautical miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon.
The Philippines calls the area the West Philippine Sea where in 1999 the Philippines had its navy transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, grounded on Second Thomas Shoal, still manned by Filipino marines to enforce Manila’s claim to the area.
We are cheered up the government, through the Philippine Coast Guard, has taken a new tack by intensifying maritime patrols and making public acts of harassment and bullying.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesman for WPS, has said “constant” patrolling will be carried out to safeguard the country’s EEZ and provide support to Filipino fishermen, especially those victims of “bullying” and “harassment” by the China Coast Guard.
“Then and now, the Philippine Coast Guard has intensified our presence in the West Philippine Sea, with the guidance of our President (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.),” Tarriela said.
At the same time, we welcome moves by the government to allow joint patrols with countries in accord with the rule of law in the WPS.
China cites the “nine-dash line,” which first appeared in 1947 atlases, as the basis for its claim, a historical demarcation of its continental shelf, although the line itself has no fixed coordinates.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over all the waters, islands, reefs, rocks, seabed, minerals, and living and non-living resources falling within its 9-dash line claim in the South China Sea.
Under international law, China has zero claim on the West Philippine Sea, but Beijing continues to claim it by law and by force of arms.