24/06/2024 08:07 PM

MANILA, June 24 (Bernama-dpa) -- The Philippines on Monday vowed to continue re-supply missions to soldiers stationed at a disputed South China Sea shoal, despite an aggressive encounter with the Chinese coastguard last week that left eight soldiers injured, German news agency (dpa) reported.

Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said the Philippines does not need permission or consent from anyone else to bring supplies to its troops at the Second Thomas Shoal.

The shoal, locally called Ayungin Shoal, lies 195 kilometres (105 nautical miles)  west of the Philippine province of Palawan and is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines ran aground the BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated navy ship, in the shoal in 1999 to mark the country's claim to the area. Philippine troops are stationed at the rusting wreck.

"We will continue to defend our territory and exercise our sovereign rights thereon as we see fit," Teodoro told a press conference, one week after Philippine re-supply boats were assaulted by Chinese coastguard ships on the way to the BRP Sierra Madre.

"We will continue our rotation and re-supply missions on a regular basis," he added, noting that the welfare of the troops at the ship was "a matter of utmost importance".

On June 17, Chinese coastguard personnel, armed with knives, pick axes and spears, blocked two Philippine rubber boats on the way to Sierra Madre, injuring eight soldiers, including one who lost a thumb.

The Philippine military said the Chinese personnel acted like pirates when they boarded one of the boats, confiscated weapons, destroyed communication equipment and then slashed the rubber boats.

“It was an aggressive and illegal use of force,” Teodoro noted, adding that it was “not a misunderstanding or an accident” as the Chinese claimed.

China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has taken increasingly aggressive actions in the area in recent years. It has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international arbitration court that it has no legal or historical basis for its expansive claims.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to the area, which is believed to be rich in natural resources.

-- BERNAMA-dpa

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