MANILA, the Philippines: Despite more Chinese vessels being sent to the area, this week, the Philippines' coast guard said it will continue its regular supply missions to troops stationed on a disputed atoll in the South China Sea.
A small number of Filipino troops are still stationed aboard an aging warship on the Second Thomas Shoal, which was deliberately run aground in 1999 to assert Manila's sovereignty claims over the atoll.
China has laid claim to most of the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, and has deployed ships to patrol the area.
During a press conference, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela said, "We are still going to carry out these dangerous missions despite our limited number of vessels and despite the increasing number of Chinese vessels they are going to deploy."
"We have to make sure the supplies will still reach our troops," he added.
The Philippines has condemned the Chinese coast guard for "unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers," including using a water cannon against Filipino boats to disrupt re-supply missions.
In response, the Chinese Embassy said this week, that Filipino ships have infringed on Beijing's sovereignty, and China's coast guard took necessary enforcement measures.
On the same day, the U.S. State Department, which has signed a defense treaty with Manila, said it stands with the Philippines.
Reversing the pro-China stance of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, and leading to a rise in tension in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has pursued warmer ties with Washington.