A Philippine aircraft dropped food and water to soldiers stationed on a grounded transport ship on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, after China blocked two Filipino supply ships from reaching the troops, a senior navy official said yesterday.
Chinese ships patrolling waters around Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as the Renai reef, on Sunday ordered the Philippine ships carrying construction materials to leave the area.
Beijing claims Manila is trying to start construction on the disputed reef after it ran aground an old transport ship in 1999 to mark its territory and stationed marines on the ship. Manila claims the shoal is part of the Philippines' continental shelf.
"We only intend to improve the conditions there, we have no plans to expand or build permanent structures on the shoal," a Philippines navy official said.
"On Monday, we sent a navy Islander plane to drop food and water but it will only last a few days. We really have to send back the civilian boats. Since last year, we have been resupplying our troops using civilian ships to avoid confrontation and this was the first time China blocked them."
On Tuesday, Manila handed over its strongly worded protest, calling the blockade "a clear and urgent threat to the rights and interests of the Philippines".
In Beijing, China also called in Philippines diplomats to lodge a protest in response.
"The Philippines' motive in trying to illegally occupy Renai reef and create incidents in the South China Sea is abundantly clear. China calls on the Philippines to stop all its provocative actions," he added.