Philippines carries out resupply mission after China blocks Scarborough Shoal

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Landing of about 3,000 tonnes of food, drinking water and medical supplies was postponed after China extended a blockade along disputed area

The Philippines navy has successfully carried out a resupply mission after China extended a blockade along a disputed South China Sea shoal.

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The patrol by about 30 Filipino marines included landing about 3,000 tonnes of food, drinking water and medical supplies on the Scarborough Shoal, which is occupied by China, as well as building a 10-turbine facility.

The Philippines suspended joint drilling in the disputed Reed Bank last month, saying China had blocked its research vessels from making a survey dive. China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, denying Filipinos access to the area.

The resupply mission comes after Duterte repeated his concerns that ties with China are closer than he’d anticipated during his two-day visit to Beijing in April.

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who was briefly in Manila to discuss territorial claims, praised Duterte’s administration as “very open and candid about its interests” during a meeting with Filipino diplomats.

“You have really maintained a very positive, productive dialogue with China,” Tillerson said. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with China.”

Both countries had sought to encourage each other’s advances in other areas of mutual interest, including boosting cooperation in counter-narcotics, defence, energy and infrastructure, he said.

The Philippines did not dispute that ties were “better than before”, Tillerson said, but called for Manila to “maintain its steadfast commitment to the rule of law in the South China Sea”.

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The Trump administration has warned Duterte that the US would strengthen its military presence in the Pacific region if it continues to grant new security pacts to other nations.

Duterte, who led an abortive 1970s rebellion against the United States, said that no one can match the US’s security standing and warned of growing Chinese competition for other nations.

“US, they have the military in Asia, but China and Russia too. No matter how much they come, no matter how much they build in the Pacific, I have a big house,” he said.

“And when they come and build for you, of course, it will be a sparrow.”

“So we don’t want them to build for us. But of course when they come we have to work with them,” he said.

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