Official declares that Ayungin Shoal is a priority for the Philippines which will never be forsaken.

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MANILA, Philippines — The government will “never abandon” Ayungin Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands, an official said Monday after the China Coast Guard blocked and water-cannoned vessels on a resupply mission. 

Tensions between Manila and Beijing escalated again Saturday after the CCG blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine boats seeking to deliver food, water, and fuel to troops stationed on BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. The incident prevented one of the boats from unloading supplies.

The rusty World War II-era ship was intentionally grounded by the Philippine Navy at Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, in 1999. BRP Sierra Madre serves as the country’s outpost in the West Philippine Sea. 

“For the record, we will never abandon Ayungin Shoal. We are committed to Ayungin Shoal,” National Security spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a briefing. 

“We will do what is necessary to provide supplies and provision for our troops there for as long as it takes,” he added. 

China told the Philippines Monday to remove BRP Sierra Madre from the shoal, Reuters reported. Ayungin Shoal is located well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. 

In response, Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said: “Who is the China Coast Guard to tell us what to do?”

The Philippines summoned Monday Beijing’s envoy Huang Xilian and issued a note verbale protesting China’s “illegal actions.” 

Since 2020, the government has filed 445 diplomatic protests over China’s presence and activities in the West Philippines Sea. Of those, 35 were filed this year. 

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has ignored the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that declared its assertion has no legal basis.

Saturday’s incident was the latest in Beijing’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea. China’s coast guard, navy and maritime militia vessels routinely block or shadow Philippine patrol and supply boats.

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