Philippines deploys marines to disputed shoal in strategic sea

MANILA–The Philippines has deployed a fresh batch of marines and supplies to a shoal in the disputed South China Sea, where a Chinese warship and surveillance vessels appeared last month and triggered a new standoff in the strategic waters, the Philippine defense secretary said Wednesday.

The new contingent of Filipino marines replaced troops at the Second Thomas Shoal, where the arrival last month of Chinese ships sparked diplomatic protests from the Philippines.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the shoal lies within the Philippines’ internationally recognized 200-nautical mile (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone. China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its own and last year took control of another shoal in the Philippines’ economic zone, prompting Manila to seek U.N. arbitration.

Gazmin said that he discussed the issue with Ma to prevent a possible confrontation between Chinese and Filipino forces, but stressed that the Philippines was free to undertake any activity in the shoal without notifying China.

“It’s ours,” Gazmin said by telephone.

The Second Thomas Shoal lies near the Spratlys, a chain of resource-rich islands, islets and reefs contested by China along with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China and the Philippines figured in a months-long standoff over another territory, the Scarborough Shoal, which lies north of the Spratlys in April last year. Philippine ships later backed off from Scarbrough, giving China effective control of the shoal.

Full article: Philippines deploys marines to disputed shoal in strategic sea (The China Post)

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