THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there is no need for its allies, including the United States, to escort Philippine vessels delivering provisions to Filipino soldiers stationed on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal amid the growing number of maritime confrontations between China and Manila.
“Our RoRe (rotation and resupply) mission is for us to undertake,” said AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar in a briefing on Thursday
RoRe missions have been continually harassed by China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and Chinese maritime militia vessels.
In August, Philippine officials were forced to abort one RoRe mission after a CCG ship fired a water cannon at one of the supply boats.
The US and countries like Japan and Australia have offered to conduct joint patrols with the Philippines or join supply missions to Ayungin to deter further provocations by the Chinese.
But Aguilar said “it is for our country to fulfill the responsibility being bestowed with the sovereign rights and jurisdiction to ensure that we are able to benefit from the resources therein.” He also said it was an “insult” to presume that the US was dictating the actions of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
“We are a sovereign country and we have an independent foreign policy. So for me, it appears to be a big insult. They were saying that other countries are dictating on the Philippines’ actions,” Aguilar said.
The Chinese foreign ministry has said the US does not have the right to get involved in disputes between China and the Philippines.
“The US is not party to the South China Sea issue, it has no right to get involved in a problem between China and the Philippines,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning said.
“The US promise of defending the Philippines must not hurt China’s sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea, and it also must not enable and encourage the illegal claims of the Philippines,” Mao said.
He added China is also obliged to “ensure the safety of those who navigate in the area.”
Aguilar also denied claims that Chinese naval and air forces “tracked, monitored, warned, and restricted” the Philippine Navy ship Conrado Yap as it sailed near the Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) last Monday.
He said the Conrado Yap was on a routine patrol in the West Philippine Sea when it sighted a Chinese navy vessel off Bajo de Masinloc.
“The Chinese vessel later tailed BRP Conrado Yap. That’s all that happened. No other untoward incidents transpired,” Aguilar said.
He said the closest that the Chinese navy vessel got to the Philippine ship was about 2.7 nautical miles. “So there were no restrictions issued by the Chinese vessel. Our ship was able to successfully conduct and finish its mission,” Aguilar said.
He also brushed aside the statements by the Chinese government that the Philippines should immediately stop its infringement and provocations to avoid tension in the West Philippine Sea from escalating further.
“Maybe what should be stopped is their illegal activities within our maritime zone. They should not be there and they should not be harassing our fishermen. Everything they are doing should be stopped,” Aguilar said.