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Philippines says it is committed to maintaining position at Second Thomas Shoal

MANILA — The Philippines will continue resupply missions to soldiers stationed in a grounded warship off Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea and China's attempts to foil them will be met with a response, a top security official said on Wednesday (April 3).

Jonathan Malaya, spokesperson of the National Security Council, said the Philippines remains committed to keep the BRP Sierra Madre which it deliberately grounded in 1999 to bolster its maritime claims to the disputed waters.

"Our commitment to maintain [BRP Sierra Madre] will always be there. Any attempt by China to interfere with resupply missions will be met by the Philippines in a fashion that protects our troops both doing resupply and those that are [on shoal]," Malaya told a maritime forum.

The disputed shoal in the South China Sea has been a flashpoint of recent maritime run-ins between Manila and Beijing, including the Chinese coast guard's use of water cannons that have injured Filipino soldiers.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with waters claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China's claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.

Philippines and US top security officials discuss China's 'coercive, aggressive' actions, Manila says