Wednesday, May 29, 2013

DND chief: PHL won't build new structures on Ayungin Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (May 29): DND chief: PHL won't build new structures on Ayungin Shoal

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Wednesday refuted Chinese claims that the Philippines is setting up new structures off Ayungin Shoal which lies 105 nautical miles away from Rizal, Palawan and well within the country's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

He said that this was the guise of his short informal conversation with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Que King, who was present during the country's commemoration of the "International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers".

The activity was held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Commissioned Officers Club Wednesday morning.

"They (Chinese) were concerned that the Philippines is coming up with additional structures in Ayungin Shoal and I told her that the ship that is moving towards Ayungin Shoal is only (carrying) provisions of food and water for the soldiers who are there," Gazmin stated.

A Marine contingent is stationed near Ayungin Shoal. These troopers are aboard the BRP Sierra Madre (LST-57), landing ship tank, which ran aground off the area sometimes in 1999.

Gazmin also said that the Chinese Ambassador also urged the Philippines not to violate the Code of Conduct (established in 2000 where nine nations who have conflicting claims in the Spratlys Island Chain have agreed not to set up new structures in their claimed portions).

"(We) told her that we are not setting up any new structure but that we are merely resupplying provisions to our people there and (if possible) rotate the soldiers standing guard there as those people can't stay there indefinitely as they could go crazy," the DND chief narrated.

And when asked whether China plans to pull out the two maritime patrol vessels it has deployed near Ayungin Shoal, Gazmin said that Ma told him that their forces are monitoring the lone Filipino vessel in the area, BRP Sierra Madre, which is not operational, for possible efforts to construct new structures.

To avoid possible maritime incidents, the DND chief also said that naval units doing resupply missions are always instructed to follow protocols.

"It's always there but we do follow some protocols like avoidance of dangerous maneuvers, avoidance of confrontational moves, so right now its holding, and we make sure that when go there also we have been doing regularly and routinely is the movement of logistics which are unarmed," Gazmin stressed.

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