By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

DANGEROUS MANEUVERS. A Chinese Coast Guard vessel uses a water cannon on a Philippine military-commissioned boat while en route to Ayungin Shoal to resupply Filipino troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre on the morning of Aug. 5, 2023. Several nations have expressed concern over the incident and reiterated their support for the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, which had invalidated China’s sweeping claims under the so-called nine-dash line. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard)

MANILA – South Korea and France have expressed concern over the Chinese Coast Guard’s (CCG) use of water cannon against a Philippine military boat while on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal on Aug. 5.

In a statement on Tuesday, the South Korean Embassy in Manila called for a rules-based order in the South China Sea.

“On the recent use of water cannons against the Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the South China Sea, the ROK (Republic of Korea) Embassy in the Philippines is concerned about the actions that raise tensions in these waters,” it said.

“The embassy reaffirms its support for peace, stability, and rules-based order in the South China Sea, as an important international sea lane of communications, and for the freedom of navigation and overflight based on the principles of international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” it added.

The French Embassy in Manila, meanwhile, reiterated its support for the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, which had invalidated China’s sweeping claims under the so-called nine-dash line over the sea lane.

“France expresses its deep concern about the dangerous manoeuvres carried out by Chinese coastguard vessels in the South China Sea,” it said.

“It reiterates its support for international law and the UNCLOS, and recalls the decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration in 2016 concerning the South China Sea,” it added.

During the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ rotation and reprovision mission to the BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal, the CCG, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Chinese maritime militia vessels used aggressive maneuvers, including the use of a water cannon against Philippine supply boats and coast guard vessels.

While the incident was happening, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) sought Beijing through the “maritime communication mechanism” established between President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping “for several hours” but was unable to reach them.

In a press conference on Monday, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said the incident “clearly” undermines efforts to enhance China-Philippine relations.

“[W]e hope that they do value the relations with the Philippines. But clearly this incident undermines efforts to strengthen mutual trust and confidence — crucial elements in friendly relations among states, between our countries, and it does provide tension in our bilateral relations,” she said.

In a statement dated Aug. 8, the Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted that it has sovereignty over Ayungin Shoal and called on the Philippine government to “immediately tow away” BRP Sierra Madre.

Ayungin Shoal is located 105 nautical miles off Palawan and well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as prescribed by UNCLOS, which China is a state party to.

The DFA has reiterated that as a low tide elevation, Ayungin Shoal can neither be the subject of a sovereignty claim nor is it capable of appropriation under international law — a fact affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Award, which is also based on UNCLOS.

“China cannot, therefore, lawfully exercise sovereignty over it,” it said in a statement. (PNA)