Philippines warns of ‘serious repercussions’ if China removes navigational buoys

BenarNews staff
Philippines warns of ‘serious repercussions’ if China removes navigational buoys Philippine Coast Guard crews prepare to locate navigational buoys in the nation’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, in this handout image obtained May 15, 2023.
Philippine Coast Guard/handout via Reuters

Philippine authorities warned China on Monday of “serious repercussions” if buoys installed last week within Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea are removed from contested waters. 

The Philippine Coast Guard deployed five navigational buoys near Patag island, Balagtas reef, Kota island, Panata island and Juan Felipe reef in the West Philippine Sea – Manila’s name for territories it claims in the South China Sea.

Vice Adm. Joseph Coyme, the coast guard’s Maritime Safety Services Command chief, noted that an aerial survey indicated the buoys remained where they were installed between May 10 and 12. 

“If we have evidence that they deliberately take out our installed buoys, which we believe are legitimate, there will be serious repercussions,” Coyme said. “We need to discuss this thoroughly of course in consultation with the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

“What we need to do is to produce necessary evidence and forward them to the [task force]. ... It’s up to them to take action as far as diplomatic concerns,” he said without elaborating.

The Philippine-flagged buoys signify “the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” the coast guard said. 

The development comes amid ongoing military engagements between the Philippines and its ally, the United States, which has been granted access to more Filipino bases. 

The government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also been vocal about China’s actions in the South China Sea. Beijing claims nearly the entire sea as its own based on historical grounds.

Apart from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the waterway. Indonesia, which is not a party to the dispute, has a separate territorial dispute also with China over the Natuna Islands. 

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to BenarNews request for comment.

More markers 

On Monday, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, chairman of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said six more buoys were expected to be installed this year. 

A year ago, the coast guard installed buoys at military-occupied Lawak, Likas, Parola and Pag-asa islands. Pag-asa serves as the seat of government of Kalayaan town, in Palawan province. 

“These cardinal buoys will indicate the direction of safe waters to prevent passing ships from running aground in these shallow areas,” Año said.

“Consequently, the installation of buoys with the Philippine flag further signifies the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our EEZ,” he said. 

Año said the buoys “underscore our adherence to global status,” specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides coastal states such as the Philippines the right to manage its 200-mile EEZ. 

“As a responsible coastal state, we are fulfilling our commitment under international law to install and maintain these aids to navigation that assist vessels in safe passage in our waters,” he said. 

“More significantly, utilizing the PCG ships in dropping buoys in the contested waters reinforces the Philippines’ commitment to promoting peace, stability, cooperation and the rule of law in the region,” Año said using an acronym for the Philippine Coast Guard.

He said national government agencies, including the armed forces, were supporting the coast guard “in navigating a highly volatile and ever-complex security environment, scaling up its operations in various efforts and ultimately in making certain that we continue to sail on to more serene seas and sunnier horizons.”

 Jeoffrey Maitem and Jojo Riñoza in Manila contributed to this report.


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