NSC: Presence of US Navy aircraft during recent Ayungin resupply mission legal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 13) — The National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday said there is nothing illegal in the deployment of a US Navy aircraft during the Philippines' recent resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal.

In a hearing on Tuesday, Senator Robin Padilla raised concerns over the presence of a Boeing P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft during Manila's successful resupply mission on Sept. 8. He said this may have provoked China to escalate tensions. 

"There is nothing illegal about the presence of an American surveillance aircraft in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ)," NSC spokesperson Jonathan Malaya told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He noted that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the EEZ of any country is subject to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight. What is exclusive for the Philippines is the exploitation of the natural resources on the sea and on the seabed, he added.

This move by the US also did not heighten tensions since the mission was entirely Filipino, Malaya said. No US Navy ship or any kind of assistance from Washington was used during the operations, he assured.

"What the Americans did was to do surveillance and I think that is well within the Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and the United States," Malaya explained. "Remember, any armed attack on a public vessel of the Philippines can be a ground to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty."

The monitoring by the US during resupply missions by Manila is seen to continue, the NSC official said. However, there are also other countries doing the same in the contested waters, Malaya noted without specifying which nations these are.