MANILA—The Philippine military will continue its resupply mission to Filipino soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Thursday.
"We will continue the resupply and we do not have to ask the permission of anybody because that is within our territory," he told reporters.
Esperon made the remark after 3 Chinese Coast Guard vessels on Nov. 16 blocked and used water cannons on 2 Manila supply boats, which were transporting food supplies to military personnel based in the Philippine-occupied atoll.
The government has condemned "in strongest terms" the actions of the Chinese vessels, which according to Esperon took place "within our sovereign territory."
"We hope that with our protest they will also heed our calls for them to back off," he said.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, no one was hurt in the incident but the supply boats identified as Unaiza Mae 1 and 3 had to abort the mission.
The bombardment lasted for an hour, added Esperon, who also chairs the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.
He added that they had monitored "an unusual presence" of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
Some 19 vessels were spotted in Ayungin Shoal while 45 others were monitored around Pagasa Island, he said.
"Very aggressive sila. So, we are protesting that because that's part of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and those are low tide elevations... Nobody is supposed to be there," Esperon said.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had said he conveyed "in the strongest terms" to the Chinese Ambassador to Manila "our outrage, condemnation and protest of the incident."
He warned Beijing's "failure to exercise self-restraint threatens the special relationship" between the 2 countries.
"China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off," Locsin said.
China, which claims virtually all the South China Sea, had said the reef was part of its territory, but a 2016 ruling by Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of Manila.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the media.
China claims sovereignty over vast swathes of the South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have lodged competing claims for some or all of the islands.
—With a report from Reuters
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