Australia, US call out Chinese harassment vs. PH vessels in Ayungin

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

November 11, 2023, 8:29 am

<p>BRP Sierra Madre <em>(File photo)</em></p>

BRP Sierra Madre (File photo)

MANILA – The embassies of Australia and the United States in Manila called out China’s “dangerous” actions in the West Philippine Sea, including the use of its coast guard’s water cannon on a Philippine vessel heading to resupply Filipino troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on Nov. 10.

In a statement on Friday, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu called for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to be respected.

“Australia is again concerned by dangerous conduct, including the use of water cannons, by China’s vessels in the Philippines’ EEZ (exclusive economic zone). Upholding international law, especially UNCLOS, is fundamental to international peace and security,” she said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson also chastised the “continued PRC (People’s Republic of China’s) harassment," and reiterated that Washington DC would stand by Manila for a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“Despite continued PRC harassment, the Philippines successfully and lawfully resupplied its forces on the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal, located wholly within the Philippine EEZ. (The US and the Philippines) stand together as friends, partners, allies for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said.

The envoys of Japan and the United Kingdom in Manila also echoed opposition to actions that increase tensions and undermine peace in the area.

"We give high importance to a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law as Japan, Philippines discussed during PM (Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s) visit last week. Any harassment and actions which increase tensions are not tolerated,” Japanese Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa said.

UK Ambassador Laure Beaufils, on the other hand, said, “(The UK) notes unsafe conduct again experienced by Philippine vessels on their resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal. We join the Philippines in calling out actions that undermine peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

“We are committed to UNCLOS, under which 2016 Arbitral Award is final and legally binding on both parties,” she added.

The European Union, the Netherlands, and Germany likewise underscored their support for the international law, specifically the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

German Ambassador to the Philippines Andreas Pfaffernoschke also reposted the Nov. 10 report of the National Task Force - West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on the latest resupply and rotation mission.

“In view of today's event in the South China Sea, Germany reiterates its support for the Philippines in advocating respect for international law in the South China Sea, as an essential pillar for peace and security,” he said.

French Ambassador Mariel Fontanel said she personally reaffirmed France’s “continuous support” to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) during her meeting with its commandant, Vice Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan, and hailed the “eventually successful” resupply mission.

The Philippines protested the latest incident, bringing the number of diplomatic protests filed against China since the start of the Marcos administration to 125.

In a statement on Friday, the China Coast Guard (CCG) said it would “continue to carry out law enforcement activities” near the Ayungin Shoal, repeating Beijing's territorial claim over the feature and the entire Spratlys.

The incident involved CCG vessel 5203 that used a water cannon against Philippine supply vessel M/L Kalayaan to alter the latter’s course.

Supply boats Unaizah Mae 1 and M/L Kalayaan were also “subjected to extreme reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity” by CCG rigid-hull inflatable boats inside the Ayungin Shoal lagoon during their approach to BRP Sierra Madre, the NTF-WPS said. (PNA)