DFA: Resupply mission in Ayungin shoal ‘legitimate gov’t activity’

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza on Thursday stressed that the resupply missions in Ayungin Shoal are legitimate activities within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under international law. Daza made the statement in response to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin report that two Filipino transport ships and three coast guard ships entered the area without the Chinese government's permission, urging the Philippines to stop infringing on Beijing's sovereignty. 'The resupply mission to and the upkeep of the BRP Sierra Madre are legitimate Philippine Government activities in our EEZ, and in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),' she said. 'It is difficult to imagine how these activities could be deemed threatening to China,' she added. The BRP Sierra Madre is a commissioned Philippine naval vessel permanently stationed in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a constant Philippine government presence in response to China's illegal occupation in 1995 of Panganiban Reef, also known as Mischief Reef. This was prior to the signing of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002. The Panganiban Reef is a low-tide elevation that forms part of Philippines' continental shelf and is within its EEZ. In 1995, when the Philippines protested against China's construction of a structure in Mischief Reef, China promised that it was only a "fisherman's shelter" and would remain as such. 'The reef is now a militarized artificial island. So are Calderon Reef, also known as Cuarteron Reef; Kagitingan Reef, also known as Fiery Cross Reef; Burgos Reefs, also known as Gaven Reefs; McKennan Reef, also known as Hughes Reef; Johnson Reef; and Zamora Reef, also known as Subi Reef,' she said. 'We call on China to remove all these illegal structures, cease reclamations in the South China Sea, and be accountable for the damages caused by these illegal activities,' she added. Prior notification for resupp ly missions Daza emphasized that the government will not provide China prior notification for future resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal. 'We will not do so. The Philippines has not entered into any agreement abandoning its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ and continental shelf, including in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal,' she said. The Philippines remains guided by UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award as the twin anchors of its policy and actions in the South China Sea. 'The reason presented by China for such challenges and dangerous maneuvers is sovereignty and exercise of lawful enforcement activity over what is allegedly territory,' she said. She said Ayungin Shoal is not an island; it is a low-tide elevation that cannot be appropriated or subjected to sovereignty claims. It is located 106.3 nautical miles from the Philippine island of Palawan. On the other hand, Ayungin Shoal is 423.30 NM from the Paracels, and 617.39 NM from the Chinese mainland - clearly beyond the 200 NM maximum maritime entitlement for an EEZ under the UNCLOS. By UNCLOS and the final and binding 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration, Ayungin Shoal is "within the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines," over which the Philippines has sovereign rights and jurisdiction. 'China cannot, therefore, lawfully exercise sovereignty over it,' Daza said. 'China bases its claim on the so-called nine-dashed line.' As clearly stated by the 2016 Arbitral Award, UNCLOS superseded any "historic rights" or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, in excess of the limits imposed by UNCLOS. China cannot claim entitlements in areas of the "nine-dashed line", now "ten-dashed line", that exceed UNCLOS limits, she added. Source: Philippines News agency