By Priam Nepomuceno

Philippine Navy vessel BRP Sierra Madre (File photo)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it will not dignify China’s latest allegation that a Filipino ship illegally entered its waters and collided with one of its coast guard vessels.

“The AFP will not discuss operational details on the legal humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal, which is well within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a message to reporters. “We will not dignify the deceptive and misleading claims of the China Coast Guard (CCG).”

The presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines’ EEZ that infringe on Manila’s sovereignty and sovereign rights remain the main issue, the AFP official said.

Trinidad also stressed that the CCG’s continued aggressive actions escalate tensions in the region.

The CCG claimed that a Philippine replenishment ship illegally entered waters near Ren’ai Reef (Chinese name of Ayungin Shoal) on Monday, forcing them to take appropriate actions against the Filipino vessel.

Ayungin Shoal is a submerged reef in the Spratlys Islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

The BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as an outpost of the Philippine Navy, is grounded in Ayungin since 1999. (PNA)