Resupply to Ayungin getting harder, says Navy
THE Philippine Navy is having a more difficult time resupplying troops in BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) amid China’s expansion around the Spratlys (Kalayaan Island Group) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
“We could say yes [it is harder]. We have seen in the reports that there are continuing efforts to deprive us from that mission. There have even been complaints [from China]…but we have to maintain our sovereignty to perform our duties,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Department of National Defense forum on the West Philippine Sea held at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday.
About a dozen soldiers are stationed in the marooned ship, the BRP Sierra Madre. Soldiers are replaced every three to six months.
There have been several instances that Chinese coast guard vessels have driven away Philippine ships on resupply missions, as well as Filipino fishermen around the shoal.
China has been aggressive in its massive reclamation activities in the Spratlys. Arevalo could not verify China’s claim that construction activities in the disputed water have been finished.
Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) where China is doing construction activities, is only about 50 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal. Defense officials previously said that the reclamation activities in the Mischief Reef could have serious implications in resupply missions to the shoal.
Both Panganiban Reef and Ayungin Shoal are within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
“We are continuing the resupply and rotation as we have been emphasizing before this is a duty of the Philippine Navy…It is but necessary na i-resupply at palitan ang troops during times they have to be replaced,” he said.
Arevalo also appealed to insiders and the media to balance the aspect of communication and operational security in order not to place the lives of the sailors in the frontlines.
“Bagamat gusto nating ipaalam sa kababayan ang nangyayari sa bahaging iyon ng West Philippine Sea. Kelangan din natin balansehin ang sa mga activities na ginagawa natin lalo na sa kapakanan ng ating mga sundalo ay hindi malagay sa alanganin,” he said.
“Meron mga report na lumalabas bagamat hindi totoo nire-reinforce daw natin ang BRP Sierra Madre. Even if it were true hindi na dapat ina-announce yung against sa interest ng bansa,” Arevalo said.
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