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Philippines rejects China’s demand to remove rusting ship from shoal

Philippines rejects China’s demand to remove rusting ship from shoal

dpa
Manila
The Philippines on Thursday rejected a demand by China to remove a dilapidated and rusting Philippine navy ship that ran aground 22 years ago on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
The Philippine Navy’s BRP Sierra Madre has been anchored in the Second Thomas Shoal, locally called Ayungin Shoal, since it ran aground in 1999, marking the country’s claim to the area.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Ayungin Shoal, which lies 105 nautical miles west of Palawan province, was located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and the country has sovereign rights over the area.
“We can do whatever we want there and it is they [China] who are actually trespassing,” he added.
On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian demanded that the Philippines pull out the Sierra Madre from the shoal, which he said was part of China’s territory.
“China demands that the Philippine side honor its commitment and remove its grounded vessel on Ren’ai Jiao,” he said, referring to the shoal by its Chinese name.
Lorenzana said the Philippines has made no commitment to remove the Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal, adding: “That ship has been there since 1999. If there was commitment, it would have been removed a long time ago.” Last week, Chinese ships blocked and fired water cannons at two supply boats on the way to the Sierra Madre, prompting Manila to file a protest. The boats completed the re-supply mission this week.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory.
Aside from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the area, which is believed to be rich in natural resources.

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