Philippines-US relations

Philippines, US discuss China’s ‘escalatory actions’ in Ayungin Shoal 

Bea Cupin

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Philippines, US discuss China’s ‘escalatory actions’ in Ayungin Shoal 

A CCG personnel was caught on camera while threatening to injure an AFP soldier with a pickaxe during the humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on June 17.

Armed Forces of the Philippines

Once again, the US reiterates its 'ironclad commitments to the Philippines under our Mutual Defense Treaty'

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and United States State Secretary Antony Blinken spoke early Thursday, June 20 (Wednesday, June 19 in the United States) about “the People’s Republic of China’s escalatory actions against the Philippines in the South China Sea,” the State Department said in a readout. 

“Secretary Blinken emphasized that the PRC’s actions undermine regional peace and stability and underscored the United States’ ironclad commitments to the Philippines under our Mutual Defense Treaty. The Secretaries also exchanged views on how to build on momentum from recent high-level bilateral engagements on issues of shared concern,” the State Department said. 

Manalo is in Greece for an official visit and will be back in Manila on Monday, June 24 yet, following another engagement in Cyprus. 

The Philippines and the United States are treaty allies, bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). That means should the treaty be invoked, one country is expected to come to the other’s aid. 

Manalo and Blinken’s conversation follows a call between Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro and US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell in the immediate aftermath of the Ayungin Shoal incident.

Manila is set to host the next 2+2 bilateral meeting, where the two countries’ foreign affairs and defense chiefs were supposed to meet jointly. On the sidelines of the historic US-Japan-Philippines leaders’ trilateral summit in Washington DC, the US hosted a first-of-its-kind 3+3 meeting, which included the National Security Advisers of the two countries. 

Ties between the treaty-allies have been on “hyperdrive” since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office. Under him, the Philippines granted US military access to five additional Filipino military camps. The two countries also issued updated guidelines for the MDT when Marcos visited the White House in May 2023. 

On Monday, June 17, the China Coast Guard disrupted a Philippine mission to bring supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, a feature in the West Philippine Sea. China has claimed that they “professional and restrained,” even as they admitted to boarding the Philippine Navy’s rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

Recent video and photos released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) show the level of aggression of the CCG – using tear gas, brandishing bladed weapons, tugging at the RHIBs, and even throwing rocks at soldiers already moored beside the BRP Sierra Madre, a still-commissioned Navy ship that was run aground in the shoal in 1999.

One Filipino soldier lost his thumb as the CCG – aboard RHIBs and steel hull ships – continued ramming and harassing Philippine Navy RHIBs just below the BRP Sierra Madre. 

Philippines, US discuss China’s ‘escalatory actions’ in Ayungin Shoal 

One Philippine Navy RHIB was separated during the melee and dragged away by two Chinese vessels. According to the AFP, the CCG then proceeded to destroy the RHIB and equipment inside – navigation and communication systems and the personal cell phones of Filipino solders. The CCG also stole disassembled rifles that were supposed to replenish the supplies of the BRP Sierra Madre. 

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Romeo Brawner Jr. has demanded that China return the rifles and pay for the damaged equipment. 

Marcos earlier said the death of a Filipino would be his “red line” in the West Philippine Sea in invoking the treaty. 

The US was among the first countries to issue a statement of support for the Philippines from its foreign affairs ministry. Australia, Japan, and Canada have also issued statements denouncing Chinese actions and expressing support for the Philippines.   

Ayungin Shoal is a feature located within the West Philippine Sea, an area that includes the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). But China claims almost all of the South China Sea as its own, including the West Philippine Sea. Beijing refuses to accept the 2016 Arbitral Ruling which affirmed the Philippines’ EEZ. It is – and always has been – a flashpoint for tensions in the West Philippine Sea. –


1 comment

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  1. ET

    A Filipino soldier already lost his thumb because of the CCG’s actions. Then, the CCG also stole the “disassembled rifles” of our soldiers. What will President Marcos Jr.’s “calibrated” action be?

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.