(MNS Photo)

MANILA, Nov 20 (Mabuhay) — The United States government said Friday it stands with the Philippines in the face of what it described as an “escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability.”

The statement came a day after the Chinese government made a tacit confirmation that its coast guard blocked and fired water cannon on two Philippine boats en route to resupply the garrisoned Filipino troops in Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal on November 16.

“The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of this escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.

He added that China should not interfere with lawful Filipino activities conducted within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

“On July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, delivered a unanimous and enduring decision firmly rejecting the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) claims to Second Thomas Shoal and to waters determined to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” he said. “The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision.”

Price likewise reaffirmed that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

The US, he said, will support its allies in Manila in upholding the rules-based international maritime order in the region.

“The United States strongly believes that PRC actions asserting its expansive and unlawful South China Sea maritime claims undermine peace and security in the region,” Price said. (MNS)

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