The Philippines on Thursday (Nov 18) condemned the actions of three Chinese coast guard vessels that have blocked and used water cannons on two Philippine supply boats bound towards a Philippine-occupied atoll in the South China Sea—occupied by Filipino marines.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a statement that no one was injured during the incident on Tuesday. Nonetheless, the two supply ships had to call off their mission to carry food supplies to Filipino forces occupying the Second Thomas Shoal. "China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off," Locsin added to the statement, cueing China that a public vessel is covered by a Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty. Sec. Locsin said he had conveyed "in the strongest terms" to China's ambassador in Manila "our outrage, condemnation and protest of the incident". He also added that “this failure to exercise self-restraint threatens the special relationship between the Philippines and China”. The office of President Rodrigo Duterte, said it was aware of the incident that has transpired at the shoal. "We will continue to assert our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction," acting spokesperson Karlo Nograles said. Chinese officials had not yet released any statement on the matter. Prior to this occurrence, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon stated authorities had noticed in recent weeks that a number of Chinese surveillance ships had increased in the far-flung shoal and also around Thitu island. Near Second Thomas Shoal had 19 ships while there were 45 near Thitu Island, Esperon told reporters, and has described those as "very aggressive". Esperon also told reporters that the government will situate coast guard and Bureau of Fisheries vessels instead of Navy ships to impose Philippine fishing laws at Second Thomas Shoal, and to back up Filipino forces. “We will continue the resupply and we do not have to ask the permission of anybody because that is within our territory,” Esperon said. The Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195km) off Palawan, is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and a small contingent of military have occupied it since 1999 having intentionally grounded a navy ship on the reef. This incident is the latest disruption in the seemingly endless overlapping disputes over territorial waters, of China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China claims that all the shoal is part of their territory as it falls within the "nine-dash line" that it uses on maps denoting its claim to almost the entire South China Sea. However, a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague, The Netherlands, found it in favor of the Philippines.