By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

BLOCKED. A much larger vessel of the Chinese Coast Guard blocks the path of the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) during a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal on June 30, 2023. On June 17, the Chinese rammed a Philippine ship involved in a humanitarian mission to the BRP Sierra Madre stationed in Ayungin Shoal, severely injuring one Navy personnel. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday denounced the “illegal and aggressive actions” of the Chinese near the Ayungin Shoal on June 17, which severely injured a Philippine Navy personnel and damaged Filipino vessels.

In a statement, the DFA expressed “grave concern” over the incident that happened during a humanitarian mission to the BRP Sierra Madre.

Before the incident, the agency lamented the Philippines had been working to “rebuild a conducive environment for dialogue and consultation” with China on the South China Sea.

“This cannot be achieved if China’s words do not match their actions on the waters,” according to the DFA statement.

“We expect China to act sincerely and responsibly, and refrain from behavior that puts to risk the safety of personnel and vessels,” the released statement also indicated.

The DFA statement also reiterated the call for China to adhere to international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

The same also told China to respect the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in its own waters.

As of posting, the DFA has yet to provide details on the specific actions it will take over the latest incident.

This year alone, the Philippines has filed at least 30 notes verbales against China’s incursions and activities in the West Philippine Sea.

READ: China has no right to damage PH assets within EEZ: AFP chief

‘Deep concern’

Canada and Japan’s foreign affairs ministries were the latest international offices that backed Manila in expressing serious concern over the Chinese harassment.

“Canada condemns the dangerous and destabilizing actions taken by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) against Philippine vessels on June 17, 2024, near Second Thomas Shoal,” the Global Affairs Canada said in a statement dated June 18.

“The PRC’s use of water cannons, dangerous maneuvers and ramming of Philippine vessels is inconsistent with the PRC’s obligations under international law, including the UNCLOS,” Canadian statement added.

It expressed “deep concern” about the reports of CCG personnel “boarding and towing” Philippine vessels, saying this jeopardizes regional peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

“The rules-based order, including the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, is vital and must be maintained. Canada opposes escalatory and coercive actions, including the unilateral declaration of authority over disputed features,” it said.

“Disputes must be resolved through dialogue rather than through force or coercion. We call upon the PRC to comply with its obligations, including implementation of the 2016 UNCLOS arbitral tribunal ruling, which is binding on the parties,” the Canadian statement concluded.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said China’s repeated actions in the South China Sea “increase regional tensions”.

“Japan believes that the issue concerning the South China Sea is directly related to the peace and stability of the region and is a legitimate concern of the international community, and thus Japan opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force as well as any actions that increase tensions in the South China Sea,” it said.

It praised Manila for “having consistently complied” with the 2016 Arbitral Award and for showing “its commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.”

“The arbitral award is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute under the provisions of the UNCLOS, and Japan strongly hopes that the parties’ compliance with the award will lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea,” it added. (PNA)