Tulfo urges AFP to use faster ships for Ayungin resupply missions
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should use faster ships for its resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre near Ayungin Shoal so that Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels would not be forced to wait for slower boats that are easily chased by the Chinese Coast Guard.
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Erwin Tulfo made that proposal on Tuesday at the hearing of the House Special Committee on the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday.
He had asked the PCG spokesperson, Commodore Jay Tarriela, about the speed of Coast Guard vessels.
“How fast are our watercraft? How many knots does your ship reach? How fast is it? And how fast are the Chinese ships? Because when you are chasing each other, now, they would really block you if you are cruising at five knots, and they run at a speed of 20 knots,” Tulfo said in Filipino.
“Mr. Chair, on the part of the [PCG], our 44-meter vessels can run as fast as 22 to 25 knots. However, since our primary mission is to provide escort — security escort — to the chartered boat, sir, we have to adjust to a slow speed so that we can be able to keep pace with the chartered boats, sir,” Tarriela replied.
Tulfo then asked about the resupply boats, and Tarriela said somebody from the AFP could answer.
According t the Western Command commander, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, the Unaizah May, the vessel tapped by the AFP to do resupply missions — which figured in the collision with the Chinese Coast Guard — has a cruising speed of seven knots.
“Can we not get, Mr. Chair, a somewhat faster vessel? At seven knots, even a swimmer could do seven knots, and maybe even a turtle could catch up with a ship going at seven knots. That puts the Coast Guard at risk because it will have to act as a shield [against Chinese ships],” Tulfo said.
“Maybe we should get a ship that can go 12 or 15 knots so that we can move faster than seven knots?” he added.
“Yes, sir, that’s part of the options that we are considering, sir,” Carlos said.
“The ideal speed for us for the Ro-Re [rotation and resupply mission] is 15 [knots] — for a platform that can go at least 15 knots with a drop that can enter the shoal, Mr. Chair.”
More ships to confuse the Chinese
Early in the hearing, authorities showed video footage of the Chinese Coast Guard chasing PCG vessels and the AFP-contracted resupply boats, which eventually led to the collision last Oct. 22.
The resupply boats were supposed to provide supplies to BRP Sierra Madre which was deliberately beached at Ayungin Shoal. But Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Chinese maritime militia ships usually arrive faster in the area to block the Philippine vessels.
Tulfo came up with another suggestion: Why not send more than two ships to confuse the Chinese side?
“Don’t we have plans to increase the resupply boats? This is like offense-defense in a sport like football, right?” Tulfo asked.
“It’s like a cat-and-mouse chase. Maybe we need many ships to serve as decoys? Can we do that? Instead of sending just two, why not hire 10 ships so they would be confused and would not know which to go after? Can we do that?
“Mr. Chair, we can discuss that in the executive session — [the] possible actions that we can take,” Carlos said.