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Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr Denies Deal to Remove Grounded Warship in South China Sea
By Sea and Coast | 10/08/2023
Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has denied any agreement with China regarding the removal of a grounded warship, which serves as a military outpost in the South China Sea. He stated that such a transaction should be declared null and void if it ever existed.
The Philippines reportedly maintains a small military presence on the WWII-era Sierra Madre at the Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal, located within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
China accused the Philippines on Monday of breaking a promise made in 1999 to remove the vessel, which was grounded to bolster territorial claims in a highly disputed region.
Marcos asserted that he was not aware of any such arrangement or agreement for the removal of the vessel from Philippine territory. He further stated that even if such an agreement existed, he would revoke it.
Jonathan Malaya, Assistant Director General of the National Security Council, challenged China to provide evidence of the alleged deal, referring to it as a product of China's imagination.
In response to a request for comment, the Chinese embassy in Manila did not respond.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have persisted over the years concerning the shoal, with the latest incident occurring on Saturday. The Philippines accused China's coast guard of using water cannons to hinder a resupply operation to the Sierra Madre.
Malaya emphasized the Philippines' commitment to maintaining the grounded vessel on the shoal, considering it a symbol of sovereignty within their EEZ.
An exclusive economic zone grants a country right over fisheries and natural resources within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, but it does not indicate sovereignty over that area.
In 2016, the Philippines secured an international arbitration award against China, with the tribunal ruling that Beijing's claim to most of the South China Sea lacked legal basis, including claims related to the Second Thomas Shoal.
China has constructed artificial islands with military installations in the South China Sea. Its historical sovereignty claim also intersects with the EEZs of neighboring countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, affiliated with the University of the Philippines, noted that China's control over the Second Thomas Shoal is strategically significant and could potentially serve as another location for a military base.