AFP fixing Filipino troops' shelter in grounded ship on Ayungin Shoal
The Philippine military on Monday said it is addressing the living conditions of troops in a Navy ship on Ayungin Shoal, which China recently demanded the Philippines to remove amid the two countries' competing territorial claims.
The 100-meter tank landing ship BRP Sierra Madre was intentionally grounded at the shoal in 1999 to reinforce Manila's sovereignty claims in the Spratlys.
Exposed to the elements, the ship built for the US Navy during World War 2 has since turned rusty and "deteriorated", according to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Lt. Gen. Andres Centino.
"Dahil may mga kasamahan tayong mga sundalong nandoon, we have to also ensure that iyong living conditions nila ay maayos kaya inaayos natin ang tirahan nila doon sa barko na iyon," he said in a public briefing, when asked whether government would refurbish the ship.
(Since we have soldiers there, we have to ensure their living conditions are good, so we are fixing their shelter in that ship.)
The military also regularly provides supplies and rotates personnel stationed at the ship, which is stuck on a reef, Centino said.
President Rodrigo Duterte last week told a summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping that he abhorred the Chinese coast guard's use of water cannons against Filipino resupply boats bound for BRP Sierra Madre.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana accused China of "trespassing" during the incident. He also dismissed China's assertion that the Philippines had committed to remove its ship in the area.
China claims the majority of the South China Sea as its own, using a "nine-dash line" on maps that an international arbitration ruling in 2016 said has no legal basis.
Ayungin Shoal is within 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 2 documents attesting that we have sovereign rights in our EEZ while they don't, and their claims have no basis," Lorenzana said last Thursday.
"China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of."
— With a report from Reuters