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Oct 25, 2023 | In The News

GMA News

A bipartisan group of senior U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday strongly condemned China’s “unlawful” acts and increasing aggression, including recent dangerous maneuvers against Philippine vessels resulting in collisions off Ayungin Shoal.

The four lawmakers of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including its chairman, Michael McCaul (R-TX), also supported joint patrols between the Philippines, the U.S., and other partners to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

“We unequivocally support the Philippines and condemn the unlawful actions by the Chinese Coast Guard in the South China Sea. The Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels intentionally hit Philippine Coast Guard ships over the weekend and continue to violate international law, endanger Filipino crew members, and obstruct Philippine vessels’ access in their own exclusive economic zone,” said a joint statement issued in Washington on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

McCaul was joined by ranking member Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY),  Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific Chairwoman Young Kim (R-CA) and Ranking Member Ami Bera (D-CA).

They also vowed to stand by its treaty obligation to defend its longtime ally against armed attack in the disputed waters.

Manila has already protested China’s actions and summoned its ambassador to receive a strongly-worded diplomatic note, expressing its displeasure over the Oct. 22 incident where a Philippine resupply boat and a Coast Guard ship were hit and damaged by Chinese vessels blocking their path.

The Philippine vessels, carrying food and other supplies for Filipino troops stationed at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, were conducting a routine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, internationally known as Second Thomas Shoal, when the incident occurred.

It was the first reported collision that has happened between the Philippines and China, triggering deep concern among several countries, such as the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, South Korea, Netherlands, France, and members of the European Union.

“This incident is part of a larger pattern of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the Maritime Militia, and the Chinese Coast Guard’s aggressive and provocative behavior in the South China Sea, where it actively intrudes in other states exclusive economic zones,” the American lawmakers said.

“We condemn Beijing’s maritime intimidation and welcome the Biden administration’s announcement to increase joint patrols with the Philippines and other partners in the South China Sea and its reaffirmation to uphold its commitment under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The US has repeatedly warned that any armed attack anywhere in the South China Sea against public Philippine aircraft and vessels, including those from the Coast Guard, would trigger its MDT with Manila.

China defended its action, reiterating Chinese sovereignty in most of the South China Sea noting that the Philippine vessel intruded into its waters.

The MDT, a 1951 defense pact signed between Manila and Washington, binds the two allies to come to each other’s aid from aggression and help defend the other party.  —VAL, GMA Integrated News

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