A file picture showing the dilapidated Sierra Madre ship of the Philippine Navy is anchored near Ayungin shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines. EPA/EFE/FILE/RITCHIE B. TONGO / POOL

Chinese coast guard warns, restricts Philippine vessels in disputed South China Sea

Beijing, Sep 8 (EFE).- The Chinese Coast guard (CCG) on Friday said it has strictly warned and restricted four Filipino vessels for trespassing China’s territorial waters in the hotly contested South China Sea.

In a statement, the China Coast Guard said it had “strictly warned, monitored and restricted two repair ships and two coast guard ships from the Philippines that trespassed China’s territorial waters near Ren’ai Jiao (known as Ayungin Shoal).”

China says that Ayungin Shoal is part of the Nansha Islands (also known as Spratly Islands), which it claims entirely as its own.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including the Ren’ai Reef, and its adjacent waters,” read the statement.

According to the statement, the Philippines’ coast guard and replenishment ships entered the waters near Ren’ai Reef “without the permission of the Chinese government” to deliver construction materials to their grounded warship.

In 1999, the Philippines intentionally grounded the World War Two-era warship Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in the contested Spratly Islands to reinforce its sovereignty claims over the area, which falls within its exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines recently announced it was refurbishing the grounded ship, which it uses as a military outpost on the disputed Shoal.

However, the Chinese coast guard said that it “firmly opposes the illegal transportation of construction materials by the Philippines to the illegally grounded warship.”

“The China Coast Guard will continue to carry out law enforcement activities in the sea areas under China’s jurisdiction according to law,” it added.

China and the Philippines are in dispute over the sovereignty of several islands in the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing, which claims nearly the entire South China Sea, also faces territorial disputes with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei in the region.

Tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent months, with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. strengthening his country’s defense alliance with the US, reversing the approach adopted by his predecessor, who favored closer ties with China. EFE