Despite the increasing number of Chinese ships reported in Ayungin Shoal, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday vowed that resupply missions to the detachment aboard the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) would continue.
In an interview with “Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon” aired by PTV-4, AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said no one can stop the government’s resupply missions to its troops there as what the Philippines is doing is lawful and a legitimate operation.
“It is important that we show the world that we are asserting our jurisdiction and sovereign rights in Ayungin Shoal,” Aguilar said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Also, the Philippines is duty bound to ensure that troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre are supplied, while keeping watch over Philippine maritime territory, the AFP spokesperson stressed.
“And therefore we cannot be prevented or no one can stop us from doing our RORE [rotation and resupply] mission,” Aguilar said.
He added that the increasing number of Chinese ships in the area is apparently aimed at preventing the Philippines from resupplying its troops.
Earlier reports indicated the presence of around 40 Chinese ships off Ayungin Shoal.
But Aguilar said such actions will only result in China’s credibility being tainted or discredited further in the eyes of the international community.
The AFP spokesperson also maintained that the Philippines would continue doing its tasks “legally and peacefully.”
He added the AFP would also continue to provide the government with information regarding hostile moves as they go about their RORE mission for the filling of diplomatic protests.
This is to remind China, Aguilar said, that Ayungin Shoal is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and that their continued presence there is illegal.
The National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) earlier said that the Philippines will not be deterred in exercising its legal rights over its maritime territories after Filipino supply boats on November 10 have successfully completed their resupply mission for the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre.
“The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal, which forms part of our exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” it added.
It issued this comment after China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels at around 7:30 a.m. of November 10 “recklessly harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers” in an attempt to prevent the Philippine resupply mission.
“CCG vessel 5203 deployed a water cannon against Philippine supply vessel M/L Kalayaan in an illegal though unsuccessful attempt to force the latter to alter course. Supply boats Unaizah Mae 1 [UM-1] and M/L Kalayaan were also subjected to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity by CCG rigid-hulled inflatable boats inside Ayungin Shoal lagoon during their approach to BRP Sierra Madre. Nonetheless, both supply boats were able to successfully reach LS-57,” NTF-WPS emphasized.
PCG chief hits ‘aggressive’ behavior of CCG in WPS
The CCG’s aggressive actions against Filipino supply boats engaged in lawful and peaceful missions in the WPS are contrary to the behavior of other coast guards.
“The systematic and consistent manner in which the CCG vessels do not align with the universally accepted behavior of a coast guard,” PCG commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Galvan said in a statement over the weekend.
Galvan issued this comment after the CCG and the CMM vessels on Friday, November 10, “recklessly harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers” in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission to the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57).
“CCG vessel 5203 deployed a water cannon against Philippine supply vessel M/L Kalayaan in an illegal though unsuccessful attempt to force the latter to alter course. Supply boats Unaizah Mae 1 [UM-1] and M/L Kalayaan were also subjected to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity by CCG rigid-hulled inflatable boats inside Ayungin Shoal lagoon during their approach to BRP Sierra Madre. Nonetheless, both supply boats were able to successfully reach LS-57,” the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea earlier reported.
Galvan also said that it is ironic that the CCG, which was tasked to ensure the safety of life at sea, but are the ones who deliberately violate the Convention on the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
Incidentally, the People’s Republic of China is also a signatory of the said convention.
“The dangerous maneuvering of the CCG vessels are illegal and irresponsible actions that put into quest-ion and significant doubt their narrative of law enforcement and their real identity as a coast guard organization,” Galvan noted.
Image credits: AP/Joeal Calupitan