(Fox News) – Resupply efforts were completed by Philippine navy personnel in the disputed South China Sea.
Captain Samuel Amangito, Navy spokesman, said Monday that a Philippine Navy vessel loaded aboard a commercial ship stationed in Subic Bay, near where Manila fought a memorable battle with communist rebels in the early 1970s, was on a voyage to Hainan Island.
He said the resupply operation in the disputed South China Sea area would take a few days and that another naval ship is being built nearby as part of a plan to keep U.S. and its allies close by.
Amangito said the resupply was called off after China demanded the move to prevent Philippine armed forces and vessels from operating in Chinese occupied areas, which both sides claim.
He said earlier that the resupply mission was planned and approved by both countries, but China’s demands constituted a violation of Beijing’s sovereignty.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to office rules, said the delay was due to complications in getting two Chinese chartered ships to return from Manila and send a second ship with the supplies to Hainan Island, where China controls an island in the disputed waters.
The official said the Chinese incursion, at sea, occurred Saturday at about 8:00 a.m. China time. China had laid claim to those islands in the region.
The official said the ship was cleared for passage but China blocked it from landing. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a potential waterway rich in oil and gas.
Though more than half the South China Sea’s 8.3 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles) is claimed by China, Beijing has sought to limit so-called “freedom of navigation” and overflight operations by international aircraft and vessels in the area.
The Philippines is a key regional ally of the United States, but the alliance is under strain over Manila’s intervention against China in the South China Sea.
The row took a lower-profile recently with the Filipino navy taking over a crucial commercial port after China seized a key island in the disputed waters last year.
Eporia said the recent resupply operation was reported by both countries’ navies, and warned of possible Chinese attacks on the ship.
She said China had a history of closing South China Sea fishing areas for several days in response to Philippine Navy vessels.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.