More than the country’s stand not to remove the BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal, senatorial aspirant Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar is more concerned on the long-term plan to ensure the Philippine government’s control in the area as he stressed that the old ship will eventually become inhabitable for the troops staying inside.
“For the BRP Sierra Madre to remain at the Ayungin Shoal is not the issue here because that it clearly ours, the real issue here is how we should replace BRP Sierra Madre with a permanent structure that would symbolize our rights and ownership in the area,” said Eleazar.
He explained that time will come that the BRP Sierra Madre will be totally damaged and will no longer be suitable to accommodate the soldiers who were stationed at the Ayungin Shoal.
Eleazar issued the statement after China demanded the removal of the BRP Sierra Madre, an old ship grounded at the Ayungin Shoal in order for the Philippines to maintain control of the area.
China’s statement came after its Coast Guard water-cannoned two ships that were supposed to deliver supplies for Philippine troops stationed at the Ayungin Shoal. The supplies eventually reached the BRP Sierra Madre.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana rejected the demand, saying the Ayungin Shoal is clearly within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
For his part, Eleazar said China’s demand is illogical and clearly without basis.
“Kapag nagpapaalis ka ng illegal settlers sa isang lugar, ang unang dapat ipakita mo ay katibayan na sa iyo ang property na yun. Sa sitwasyon na ito sa Ayunghin Shoal, baligtad ang nangyayari. Yung pinapaalis ang may katibayan habang yung nagpapaalis ay laway lang ang katibayan (If you want to have illegal settlers leave an area, you have to show proof that you own it. But in the case of Ayungn Shoal, the situation is different. Those who want us to leave have no basis that they own it, what they have is merely a claim),” said Eleazar.
“Sila dapat ang umalis doon dahil ayon nga kay Secretary Lorenzana, dalwa ang katibayan natin na atin ang Ayungin Shoal (It is them who should leave becasue according to Secretary Lorenzana, we at least two documents showing that Ayungon Shoal is ours,),” he added.
Ayungin Shoal lies approximately 104 nautical miles off Palawan which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In 1999, BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately ran aground the shoal to serve as a garrison for Filipino troops and assert the country’s sovereignty in the area.
But in 2014, China had claimed that the Philippines already agreed to remove the ship at Ayungin Shoal which it also claims as their own and calls Ren’ai Jiao. This was already denied by the Department of Foreign Affairs back then while the Department of National Defense also contradicted Beijing’s claims now.