Duterte denounces China's illegal acts in Ayungin Shoal

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FILE PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — President Rodrigo Duterte slammed China for harassing Philippine vessels in Ayungin Shoal.

During his speech at the ASEAN-China Special Summit on Monday, he urged China to exercise utmost self-restraint after three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine boats in the country's territory last week.

"We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments. This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership," said Duterte, who has cultivated close ties with China and has rarely rebuked Asia's giant.

He added stakeholders must avoid the escalation of tension and work towards the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

"There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law," the President said.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed the Philippine boats were trespassing into Chinese waters without consent and that their coast guard vessels only performed their duties.

The Kalayaan Island Group is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. The Philippines said it has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the island group. However, China has been claiming the area through a historic nine-dash line, which a 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling has invalidated.

At least four powerhouse nations have reaffirmed support for the Philippines and its 2016 arbitral victory following the incident on Nov. 16 at Ayungin Shoal, which is part of the is part of the Kalayaan Island Group. Ayungin, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, is located 104 nautical miles from the archipelagic baseline of Palawan and is well within the Philippines' 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The vessels bringing supplies left for Ayungin Shoal again on Monday morning. They are expected to reach the BRP Sierra Madre on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian "assured" him that the vessels will not be impeded as long as there are no escorts.

In 1999, the Philippine military deliberately ran aground the World War II-era warship Sierra Madre at the shoal to fortify the country's claim and provide a shelter to a small contingent of Filipino marines.