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Countries rally behind Philippines in maritime incidents with China

Several countries have expressed their support for the Philippines after the coast guard reported being tailed and directed a military-grade laser device by China during a rotation and resupply mission in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal last week. 

Former colonizer and treaty ally United States was the first to issue a statement of support. Trade and development partners Japan, Australia, Canada, and Germany also issued separate statements to back Manila. 

“The PRC’s conduct was provocative and unsafe, resulting in the temporary blindness of the crewmembers of the BRP Malapascua and interfering with the Philippines’ lawful operations in and around Second Thomas Shoal,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement dated February 13.

Countries also urged China to follow international rules-based order and put an emphasis on the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated Beijing’s claims over the disputed waters, which include parts of the West Philippine Sea. However, it never recognized the validity of the ruling. 

China justified its actions by saying that the China Coast Guard, asserting territory over what it called the Ren’ai Reef (Ayungin Shoal). 

On Tuesday, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China’s recent aggressions, while President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over “the increasing frequency and intensity” of China’s actions against the PCG and the Filipino fishermen.

Comply with UNCLOS

China already claimed that its actions were in accordance to local and international laws, namely the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but other countries are still calling on China to abide with international law as they express concern.

“All states should respect maritime order based on international law, in particular UNCLOS, and recall that 2016 Arbitral Award is final and legally binding. We firmly oppose any action that increase tensions,” the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, Canada expressed its “firm and unwavering” support for Manila, urging Beijing to comply with its international obligation as party to the convention.

“Recent actions that disrupted the lawful operations of Philippine vessels off the coast of the Philippines are in violation of international law and contrary to the maintenance of regional peace and stability, and the rules-based international order,” Canada said. 

Germany also called out China’s “intimidatory action” against the PCG. 

“We call to refrain from any conduct that increase tensions,” German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel said. “All states must abide by UNCLOS. The 2016 Arbitral Award is final and legally binding.”

The British Embassy in Manila noted that China’s “dangerous acts are in violation of international law.”

Australia called China’s actions toward the Philippines “unsafe and intimidatory.”

“We continue to call for peace, stability and respect for international law in the South China Sea, a vital international waterway,” Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu said.