Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr denied making a deal with China to remove a grounded warship, which is a military outpost in the South China Sea, on Wednesday. He said such an agreement must be considered rescinded if it ever existed.
The Philippines reportedly keeps a handful of mere troops on the WWII-era Sierra Madre at the Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila knows as the Ayungin Shoal, inside the 200-mile-long exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
On Monday, China accused the Philippines of reneging on a promise made “explicitly” to get rid of the vessel grounded back in 1999 to enhance territorial claims in one of the most contested areas in the world.
Marcos said he was unaware of such an arrangement or agreement that the Philippines would remove its vessel from its territory.
He went on to say that even if there is an agreement like this, he rescinds that agreement today.
Jonathan Malaya, the National Security Council assistant director general, previously challenged China to give evidence of the deal.
For all kinds of intents and purposes, it is a figment of China’s imagination, he stated.
China’s embassy based in Manila stated that it had no comments.
The Philippines and China have been embroiled for many years in on-off arguments at the shoal, the most recent being Saturday. The Philippines also accused China’s coast guard of impeding a resupply mission to the Sierra Madre with water cannon.
Malaya mentioned that the Philippines was committed to maintaining the rusty vessel on the shoal, adding that it was a symbol of sovereignty in a shoal situated in their EEZ.
An EEZ permits a country’s sovereign right to fisheries and natural resources within 200 miles of its coast but does not reflect sovereignty over that zone.
In 2016, the Philippines had won against China an international arbitration award, following a tribunal that said Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea had zero legal basis, including the one at the Second Thomas Shoal.
China has built militarized and man-made islands in the South China Sea. Further, its claim of historic sovereignty also overlaps with the EEZs of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
Jay Batongbacal, a maritime specialist associated with the University of the Philippines, said that control of the Second Thomas Shoal was strategic for China. Besides, it could be another appropriate location for building a military base.
References: Bloomberg, Saltwire, SCMP
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