The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) slammed China’s recent remark condemning the Philippines’ latest resupply mission to troops in Ayungin Shoal.
“What we do to our BRP Sierra is none of their business, and they should not interfere,” AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar said on the sidelines of the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
The AFP spokesperson made the statement after China condemned a mission by four Philippine ships to resupply Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal, claiming the vessels had entered its waters in the Spratly Islands without its permission.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including the Ren’ai Reef, and its adjacent waters, and firmly opposes the illegal delivery of construction materials by the Philippines to the illegally grounded warship,” China Coast Guard spokesman Gan Yu said.
Aguilar said China should not mind what the Philippines does to BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II transport ship-turned-military outpost in Ayungin.
“Wala silang pakialam. What we do to our BRP Sierra Madre is our responsibility; they should not interfere,” he said.
BRP Sierra Madre has been grounded on the Ayungin Shoal since 1999, serving as an enduring symbol for the Philippines’ longstanding sovereignty claim over its territorial waters.
On Wednesday, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said a Chinese vessel again maneuvered dangerously against Philippine vessels on their way to Ayungin Shoal for this month’s resupply mission.
During the forum, Aguilar was asked what the AFP’s plan was amid China’s continued attempts to block resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal.
Without divulging details, the AFP spokesperson said, “It cannot always be this way.”
Nonetheless, he said that “the morale of our troops in the West Philippine Sea is high, and they are determined to work harder to make sure the interests of the country are protected.”
This is “because of the support they are hearing from almost all Filipinos and for the international community for standing by the Philippines in its position on matters concerning the West Philippine Sea,” according to Aguilar.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, pointing to a line on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, however, ruled that the line on China’s maps had no legal basis.
China has refused to recognize the decision. —VBL, GMA Integrated News