Despite reports to the contrary the Republic of the Philippines continuous to maintain its visible sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, known to us Filipinos as Ayungin Shoal, by virtue of a rusting ship marooned in the area which flies the Philippine flag. However comical it may seem, the fact that the Philippines had the audacity in 1999 to deliberately maroon one of its aging ships, the BRP Sierra Madre, at the Ayungin shoal reveals the serious intent of the country to protect and
maintain its sovereign rights over the shoal, considering that it is well within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), even if it is in the form of a shipwreck and a motley band of Philippine marines tasked to guard it.

There is no question of course that the Ayungin shoal has become a dangerous flashpoint and the cause of heightened diplomatic tension between China and the Philippines with the former insisting that the latter is to the blame for the continuing dispute in the West Philippine Sea and for having failed to “honor its commitment” which allegedly violates international law. China claims that there was an alleged “commitment” by the Philippines to tow away or remove the BRP Sierra
Madre from the Ayungin Shoal which the latter denies vehemently.

What China actually fails to understand is that the Philippines, by deliberately grounding the BRP
Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal and posting marines to guard it as well as making sure the Philippine flag is hoisted and flown aboard the ship, has created a situation similar to what Taiwan is experiencing right now. That’s right. For all intents and purposes the Philippine has its own “Taiwan” in Ayungin Shoal and is making sure that China cannot just trespass and occupy it without dire consequences.

Now while the Republic of the Philippines may not have the military capability to defend the Ayungin Shoal should China decide to simply invade and occupy the area, similar to what it did with Mischief Reef which is just 25 miles away from Ayungin Shoal, the Philippine government thru the administration of President Bongbong Marcos was wise and shrewd enough to seek and
solicit the support of its allies such as the US, Australia, Canada and Japan who apparently share the common interest of making sure that China will never realize its claim of owning the entirety of the South China Sea.

Also, even if we consider China as the big bully in the South China Sea it cannot just take over by force the Ayungin Shoal because the Philippine Flag which is a symbol of sovereignty still flies aboard the marooned BRP Sierra Madre and any attempt to remove it by force would definitely constitute a major maritime international incident that will lead to severe repercussions. At the moment China is limited to threatening and intimidating, as well using water cannons and military grad lasers to shoo away Philippine boats attempting to resupply the contingent of marine soldiers
stationed by the BRP Sierra Madre.

The Philippine government on the other hand is now preparing to participate in the proposed joint maritime patrols of the South China Sea with its allies and partners to include the US, Australia, Canada and Japan. If these proposed maritime joint patrols will start next year then it would not be a stretch of the imagination for someone to suggest or propose later that apart from these joint
maritime patrols these allies and their warships will also escort in the near future the supply runs that will be made by Philippine boats to the marine garrison on board the BRP Sierra Madre.

And if that happens China will be effectively deterred from further intimidating or using its water cannons and military grade lasers against the Philippine ships that would travel to the Ayungin Shoal to resupply the soldiers aboard the BRP Sierra Madre. For now we take comfort in the fact that the Philippine Flag still flies at the Ayungin Shoal.

Amianan Balita Ngayon