(File photo) The BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned transport ship in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal Photograph:( Reuters )
The Philippines intentionally grounded a warship, BRP Sierra Madre, at the Second Thomas shoal in 1999 to reinforce Manila's sovereignty claims in the Spratly archipelago
The Philippines has rejected China’s demand to remove its naval ship anchored on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, its defence chief said on Thursday, adding that Chinese coast guard ships should leave the area and stop blocking Manila’s supply boats.
The Philippines intentionally grounded a warship, BRP Sierra Madre, at the Second Thomas shoal in 1999 to reinforce Manila's sovereignty claims in the Spratly archipelago, according to Reuters.
But on Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had said “that the Philippine side honour its commitment and remove its illegally grounded vessel from Ren’ai Jiao ... This position remains unchanged.”
Beijing refers the disputed shoal as Ren’ai Jiao, while Filipinos refer to as Ayungin.
This assertion was rejected by Philippine defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana, claiming that it was China which has trespassed into their area.
“That ship has been there since 1999. If there was a commitment it would have been removed a long time ago,” he said.
The Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195 km) off Palawan, is the temporary home of a small contingent of military aboard the rusty ship, which is stuck on a reef.
Lorenzana accused China of "trespassing" when its coast guard interrupted a resupply mission for the troops.
China claims the majority of the South China Sea as its own, using a “nine-dash line” on maps that an international arbitration ruling in 2016 said has no legal basis.
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The Second Thomas Shoal is within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China has ratified.
In 2016, the UN arbitration body backed the Philippines claims to the shoal and invalidated China’s rights, leaving them without any legal basis
“We have two documents attesting that we have sovereign rights in our EEZ while they don't, and their claims have no basis,” Lorenzana said.
“China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)