Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday rejected China’s claim that the Philippines had pledged to withdraw the BRP Sierra Madre, which was intentionally stranded at Second Thomas Bank in 1999 to bolster Manila’s sovereignty claims in the Spratly archipelago.
The 100-meter-long (330-foot) Tank Landing Ship https://reut.rs/3DQB1GZ was built for the US Navy during WWII.
“This ship has been there since 1999. If there had been a commitment, it would have been withdrawn a long time ago,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday that Beijing “demands that the Philippine side honor its commitment and withdraw its illegally stranded ship.”
Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195 km) off Palawan, is the temporary home of a small contingent of military personnel aboard the rusty ship, which is stranded on a reef.
Lorenzana accused China of “intruding” when its coast guard interrupted a troop supply mission.
China claims most of the South China Sea as its own, using a “nine-dash line” on maps which, according to a 2016 international arbitration ruling, have no legal basis.
The second Thomas Shoal is in the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China is a signatory.
“We have two documents showing that we have sovereign rights in our EEZ when they don’t, and their claims have no basis,” Lorenzana said.
“China must respect its international obligations of which it is a part. “
President Rodrigo Duterte said at a summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday that he “abhors” https://www.reuters.com/world/china/xi-says-china-will-never-seek -hegemony-summit-with -asean-2021-11-22 China’s recent actions on the shoal.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)