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EU expresses ‘strong opposition’ to China blocking Philippine vessels near Ayungin

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The European Union (EU) on Sunday expressed “strong opposition” to China’s blocking of and using water cannons on two Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

“Last week, coastguard vessels of the People’s Republic of China blocked two Philippine supply boats on their way to Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles west of the province of Palawan (Philippines) in the South China Sea, and used water cannons against them. This episode follows other unilateral actions by vessels of the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea over the past months,” the EU said in a statement.

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“The European Union reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that endanger peace, security and stability in the region and the international rules-based order,” EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Nabila Massrali said.

The EU said freedom of navigation and overflight should be respected.

“Furthermore, the European Union emphasises the importance for all parties to respect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea,” it said.

The EU also said the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled in 2016 that the shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

“We urge all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including its dispute settlement mechanisms. In this context, the European Union recalls the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016, which found that Second Thomas Shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” it said.

“The European Union supports the ASEAN-led process towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which should be effective, substantive and legally binding, and not prejudice the interests of third parties,” the EU added.

Two Philippine supply boats on a mission to bring supplies to Filipino troops stationed at Ayungin Shoal were blocked and water cannoned by Chinese Coast Guard vessels on Nov. 16, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.

No one was hurt in the incident, but the boats had to abort their resupply mission.

Locsin said the Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which is an integral part of the Philippines, as well as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

China said its coast guard upheld its sovereignty when the Philippine vessels intruded into what it claimed was its waters.

On Sunday however, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said military resupply missions for troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal will continue this week as China gave word that it would not interfere with such missions.

Some Chinese ships had already pulled out from Ayungin Shoal, and only two remained as of 12 a.m. Sunday, Vice Admiral Roberto Enriquez, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command, said.

Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia over the weekend slammed China for the incident and expressed support for the Philippines. —KG, GMA News

Read more, click here: GMA News

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