AFP chief says delivery of BRP Sierra Madre supplies to continue via sea
MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. said Tuesday that delivery of supplies for BRP Sierra Madre will remain via sea despite continued harassment by China in the West Philippine Sea.
He explained that the use of helicopters to drop off supplies for military personnel stationed in the grounded Philippine Navy ship in Ayungin Shoal poses logistical challenges and, hence, may not be viable.
“Sinubukan na po natin ‘yan noon, pero ang problema kaunti lang po ‘yung supply na kayang dalhin,” Brawner said in a radio DZRH interview.
(We have tried that before, but the problem is it can only carry a few supplies.)
“And of course, ‘yung mga helicopters natin hindi n’ya kaya ‘yung mula doon sa Palawan hanggang doon sa Ayungin Shoal, masyadong malayo po,” he added.
(And of course, our helicopters can’t make it from Palawan to Ayungin Shoal, it’s too far.)
Brawner further said that they will heed the order of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to continue the resupply mission for the crew in the grounded World War II warship.
“Inutos po ng Pangulo na tuloy-tuloy ‘yung ating resupply mission because that is our obligation dahil may mga sundalo po tayo dun so kailangang suportahan po.”
(The President ordered that our resupply mission continue because that is our obligation because we have soldiers there so we need to support them.)
The BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded in Ayungin Shoal to serve as one of the Philippine military’s outposts to watch over the country’s exclusive economic zone. The shoal is located some 194 kilometers from Palawan province.
In 2014, the AFP evaded a Chinese sea blockade by using an airplane to drop food to a contingent of marines in the BRP Sierra Madre.
Beijing has been relentless in its claim that it owns most of the South China Sea through its latest 10-dash line, which overlaps the West Philippine Sea and Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The 10-dash line used to be nine-dash line, which was invalidated in July 2016 by an international tribunal’s Arbitral Award favoring the Philippines.
The latest incident of apparent harassment by China in the West Philippine Sea was the collision between a China Coast Guard ship and an AFP-contracted resupply boat on Sunday, October 22.
The weekend event at sea also involved a Chinese militia vessel hitting a ship of the Philippine Coast Guard which was escorting the boat toward Ayungin Shoal to deliver supply for the BRP Sierra Madre crew.