The Philippines said Thursday it rejected China's demand to remove the wreckage of a Navy Ship in Ayungin Shoal, which Manila has maintained to assert its rights and rebuff Beijing's vast claims at sea.
A Filipino boat delivered supplies to troops guarding the BRP Sierra Madre on Thursday, after being shooed away by the Chinese Coast Guard with water cannons on Nov. 16. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had described the harassment as an "affront to the Filipino people".
"China remains aggressive in asserting its claims in the South China Sea, seriously challenging our interests in the area," Lorenzana told a forum hosted by ADR Stratbase Institute.
Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomans Shoal lies within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, meaning it has the sole right under international law to exploit itas natural resources. China claims otherwise, insisting on its historical claim to the entire South China Sea, despite being declared invalid by a UN Arbitration Court that ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016.
On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Ayungin Shoal, which the Chinese call Ren'ai Jiao, is part of China's territory and demanded that the Philippines pull out the Sierra Madre.
Ayungin Shoal is located 174 nautical miles off Puerto Princesa, Palawan, that's three times nearer compared to the nearest Chinese landmass, Hainan province, at 600 nautical miles.
Zhao accused the Filipino supply ship of tresspassing into Chinese territory and said the Chinese Coast Guard performed "official duties in accordance with law and upheld China's territorial sovereignty and maritime order."
"One of the most significant challenges of being a Defense Secretary is staying calm in the face of crisis," Lorenzana said on Facebook. "The recent use of water cannons against our two resupply boats in the Ayungin shoal is an affront to the Filipino people."
"I have told the Chinese Ambassador that that no one can prevent us from doing what we have to lawfully do within the West Philippine Sea, an area where we have sovereign rights by international laws,"
At the ASEAN Summit last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said the water cannon incident “does not speak well of the relations between our nations" and that the dispute between Manila and Beijing should not be resolved using force.
During the same summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was not bullying other nations in disputed waters.