Written by Staff Writer at CNN, Emma Irvine
The Philippines navy has completed a five-day resupply mission to a rebel-controlled island after the Chinese navy allegedly jammed their communications and blockaded their supply lines, the military said Tuesday.
General Leandro De Leon, commander of the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said troops completed their task by sending trucks in to Sulu Island on Saturday night, after the Chinese navy reportedly covered the distance of several miles with dinghies to prevent them from sailing to Pajau.
“Two of the crew who were part of the resupply effort have sustained minor injuries from the boating, as well as what they call ‘trouble-making,'” the official Philippine military news outlet, Zensan, quoted De Leon as saying.
But the official did not provide any details on which side of the border the dinghies came from, or whether the push began within the Philippines’ own maritime borders or Philippine-claimed waters.
Last week, the government warned that the resupply mission was in response to repeated Chinese naval threats to thwart its intervention in humanitarian situations and “normal activities that we have been doing in the region for decades and centuries,” according to Rep. Danilo Suarez, who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into the blockade.
The siege at Pajau is part of a larger series of Chinese actions against Philippine national interests in the South China Sea, with the country accused of undermining the safety of a government search and rescue mission by China’s self-ruled island of Macau.
According to statements from the Philippine Navy, the area where the resupply was taking place is part of a corridor China has extended so it can resupply the island by air, which would be illegal under international law.
The Philippines submitted a diplomatic request with the United Nations, demanding that China comply with international law and provide access to a government boat stranded on Pajau.
The agreement between the Philippines and China on managing the disputed claims in the South China Sea is based on what the Philippines calls an “informal obligation” which allows China to infringe upon the southern island of Palawan and “further maritime features in disputed waters” by drilling for oil and gas and fishing, according to official documents made public by the Philippines.
However, some South China Sea experts are skeptical about this interpretation, arguing that the agreement is not legally binding and that both countries have the option of ignoring its implementation.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano described the blockage as “blatant intervention by a global hegemon of a sovereign nation,” according to AFP news agency.
“We are taking note of Chinese claim of jurisdiction over Scarborough Shoal, I wouldn’t be surprised if they look for other areas to close down,” Daniel L. Russel, former U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, told the news agency.