Philippines to resupply South China Sea troops after Beijing’s block

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine armed forces said on Saturday it would again seek to resupply troops stationed in a rusty World War 2-era ship on a reef in the South China Sea, after China blocked a previous attempt with water cannons.

“This exercise of our sovereign rights and jurisdiction is a testament to our firm belief in the rules-based international order that underpins regional peace and stability,” armed forces spokesperson Medel Aguilar said in a statement.

Manila filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing this month after China’s coast guard used water cannon and “dangerous” moves to prevent the Philippines from sending supplies to a handful of troops in the Second Thomas Shoal.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, an assertion rejected internationally, while Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have various claims to certain areas.

Manila calls on all relevant parties to respect its sovereignty and jurisdiction over its maritime zones, Aguilar said, adding that Manila supports the peaceful settlement of disputes.

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Chinese coast guard said on Aug. 7 it had told the Philippines not to send ships to the shoal and not to send “construction materials used for large-scale repair and reinforcement” to the warship.

The Philippines intentionally grounded the warship in 1999 as part of its sovereignty claim to the shoal, which lies within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The planned resupply mission “is a clear demonstration of our resolve to stand up against threats and coercion, and our commitment in upholding the rule of law”, the armed forces said.

In 2016, an international arbitration award invalidated China’s sweeping claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

China, which does not recognise the ruling, has built man-made islands with airstrips and surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by William Mallard)