Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea (File)
The Philippines Coast Guard announced on Saturday its commitment to continue regular supply missions to troops stationed on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, even in anticipation of an increase in Chinese vessels in the area.
The Philippines regularly dispatches supplies to a small contingent of troops stationed on an aging warship deliberately grounded on the Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 as a symbolic assertion of Manila’s sovereignty over the atoll.
China, claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, has deployed a substantial number of vessels for patrols in the region.
Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela stated in a press conference, “We are still going to carry out these dangerous missions despite our limited number of vessels and despite the increasing number of Chinese vessels they are going to deploy. We have to make sure the supplies will still reach our troops.” Tarriela noted that China’s coast guard is deploying smaller vessels to try to outmaneuver its Philippine counterpart.
This statement comes a day after the Philippines condemned the Chinese coast guard for “unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers,” including using a water cannon against one of its boats during a resupply mission.
In response, China’s Embassy in Manila justified its coast guard’s actions, stating that necessary enforcement measures were taken against Philippine ships that infringed on Beijing’s sovereignty.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Saturday expressing support for the Philippines and urging China to respect international law regarding freedom of navigation. The U.S. reiterated its commitment to the defense treaty with the Philippines.
The recent tensions highlight the geopolitical complexities in the South China Sea, where competing territorial claims continue to escalate, raising concerns about potential conflict and the broader implications for regional stability.