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'Basta ipaalam': China to allow Philippine access to Ayungin if informed ahead

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing officials will not hamper Filipino access to Ayungin Shoal — a feature situated within the West Philippine Sea — but only if they tell Chinese officials in advance.

Mao Ning, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, shared this to the international media last Friday after the China Coast Guard tried to stop the evacuation of a sick Filipino soldier from the BRP Sierra Madre last May 19, 2024.

"China’s position on the issue of Ren’ai Jiao is clear," said Mao yesterday, referring to Ayungin Shoal's Chinese name.

"If the Philippines notifies the Chinese side in advance, we can allow delivery of living necessities to the grounded warship or evacuation of personnel concerned."

Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela earlier referred to the China Coast Guard's action as "barbaric and inhumane," stating that the latter rammed the inflatable boat carrying the Filipino solider on purpose.

On May 19, 2024, in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan decisively deployed the High Speed Response Boat (HSRB) from Buliluyan Port to rendezvous with the Philippine Navy Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat…

The Philippine military recently claimed that Chinese boats "illegally seized" food and medicine airdropped to a Filipino outpost also at Ayungin.

Ayungin Shoal, known internationally as Second Thomas Shoal, is occupied by the Philippine Navy through the BRP Sierra Madre since 1999. Said board has been intentionally grounded on the feature and periodically replenished with supplies since then.

China insists its sovereign rights on Ayungin Shoal even if it lies well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. 

It also continues to claim almost the entirety of the South China Sea even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated their nine-dash line claim in favor of Manila. The West Philippine Sea lies within the South China Sea.

"However, the Philippines should not use this [permission] as an excuse for delivering construction materials in an attempt to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao," continued