3rd Ayungin supply mission since water cannon incident again piques China
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it had completed another “rotation and reprovisioning” (RoRe) mission to grounded warship BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
This prompted a stern warning from China, which had also sent several ships Friday morning in an attempt to block the resupply mission—the third since Aug. 5, when the China Coast Guard (CCG) boats fired water cannons at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Philippine Navy boats conducting their RoRe mission at that time.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirmed that vessels of the CCG and Chinese maritime militia (CMM) conducted “harassment, dangerous maneuvers and aggressive conduct” against two boats deployed by the AFP’s Western Command and two escort ships sent by the PCG.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, identified a total of eight Chinese ships in the Ayungin area—CCG 21616, CCG 21551, CCG 21556, CCG 5305 and four vessels belonging to the CMM, 00115, 00114, 00008 and Qiong Sansha Yu 00231.
But according to Stanford University maritime expert Raymond Powell, at least 13 Chinese vessels took part in the attempted blockade some 18 kilometers from Ayungin.
Powell, a retired US colonel and former commander of the US Air Force Honor Guard, identified in his tweets two of the Chinese boats as CCG 5305 and CCG 21551.
CCG issued a statement Friday saying that the Philippine mission was “without permission from the Chinese government.”
CCG ships also “tracked and monitored the vessels all the way and effectively regulated them,” the statement said.
AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar in his statement said Friday’s mission to BRP Sierra Madre showed “our firm resolve to assert our sovereign rights and jurisdiction in our maritime zones.”
The decrepit warship was intentionally grounded in 1999 to help secure the Philippines’ assertion of sovereignty over the area of Ayungin Shoal—which is some 315 km west of Palawan and thus well within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone.
“The PCG calls upon the CCG and CMM to immediately cease any illegal activities within the maritime zones of the Philippines. Doing so can foster a stable, secure and rules-based maritime order conducive to regional cooperation and peace,” Tarriela said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri commended the AFP and the PCG for its latest resupply mission.
Zubiri also shared a video to reporters showing at least two CCG vessels “doing very dangerous maneuvers” around Philippine ships at Ayungin, he said.
“Only barbarians at the gate will delight at seeing soldiers on a peaceful mission denied of food,” Zubiri said.
“As long as the law and truth are on our side, illegal barriers to what is ours will continue to be pierced by the sharp tip of world opinion that upholds our cause as just,” he added.