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MANILA, Philippines – The National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday, November 21, said it “does not support” a planned December 5 civilian resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, a flashpoint for tensions between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.
“The National Security Council does not support the planned Christmas Convoy to BRP Sierra Madre (LS 57) in Ayungin Shoal or any similar undertaking to the said shoal,” NSC spokesperson Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.
Malaya said that the council supports the intent of the Atin Ito coalition “in principle” but said “undertaking such a convoy to Ayungin Shoal at this time of heightened tensions between the Philippines and China is ill-advised.”
Malaya had earlier said that the NSC “highly discourages” the mission.
Malaya reiterated an earlier suggestion for the convoy to visit, instead, other features in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group, including Pag-asa Island, where there is a Filipino community and where Philippine soldiers are stationed.
The coalition itself had earlier expressed openness to turning over their donations to the Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard to facilitate delivery to the BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippines’ outpost in Ayungin Shoal.
The shoal, a low-tide elevation in the West Philippine Sea, is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. But China says it is their territory, despite a 2016 arbitral award deeming its sweeping claim of the South China Sea invalid.
Chinese vessels have routinely harassed and tried to block Philippine resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre. – Rappler.com