This photo taken on April 23, 2023 shows the Philippine coast guard vessel BRP Malapascua (R) maneuvering as a Chinese coast guard ship cuts its path to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. AFP was one of several media outlets invited to join two Philippine Coast Guard boats on a 1,670-kilometer patrol of the South China Sea, visiting a dozen islands and reefs. Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, ignoring an international ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.
Ted ALJIBE / AFP
MANILA, Philippines — France said it is following the recent events in the South China Sea “with utmost attention” after reports of a near collision between Chinese and Philippine vessels in waters off Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).
It is the latest to issue a call for respect of international law – joining the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom – emphasizing its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“We are opposed to any action that increases tensions and jeopardizes regional stability and the international order based on the rule of law,” the Embassy of France said in a statement on Tuesday.
We share our concern, following the release of a report by the@coastguardph and several media who witnessed directly these events, including @afpfr Manila Bureau Chef @allijackson28 pic.twitter.com/oo0MV0C2eb
— Michèle Boccoz (@MBoccoz) May 2, 2023
State-funded Agence France-Presse was one of several media outlets invited to join two Philippine Coast Guard boats on a 1,670-kilometer (1,040-mile) patrol of the South China Sea, visiting a dozen islands and reefs.
The BRP Malapascua and BRP Malabrigo were shadowed by Chinese navy and coast guard ships, and were ordered to leave the waters several times during the six-day journey.
READ: Chinese, Philippine vessels in ‘David and Goliath’ near-crash
Ma. Teresita Daza, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said China’s interference with the Philippines’ recent missions in the waters were “totally inconsistent with freedom of navigation.”
“I would like to emphasize that the Philippines has the legal right to carry out ROUTINE maritime patrols in our territorial waters and exclusive economic zone,” Daza said in a statement on April 28.
China still pins the blame on the Philippines, claiming that the PCG intruded into Chinese territory without permission and its vessels only upheld its own sovereignty. Ayungin Shoal is part of Manila’s exclusive economic zone and is backed by the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. – with reports from Agence France-Presse