Civilian ship, chased by China vessel, returns to Palawan
ABOARD BRP MELCHORA AQUINO — The civilian mothership of a convoy to the West Philippine Sea decided to return to El Nido, Palawan on Sunday afternoon after being followed by a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel.
Organizers said a CCG ship started to shadow TS Kapitan Felix Oca at 3:40 p.m., south of Kayumanggi Bank.
Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Melchora Aquino, where a number of local and foreign journalists including INQUIRER.net were aboard, escorted TS Kapitan Felix Oca during the mission.
BREAKING: The civilian ship en route to Ayungin Shoal decided to return to El Nido, Palawan after the shadowing of a China Coast Guard vessel on Sunday afternoon. @inquirerdotnet pic.twitter.com/R6lo8GdoaX
— John Eric Mendoza (@JEMendozaINQ) December 10, 2023
After China’s aggressive actions at sea, the boat captain decided to head back to the San Fernando Port in El Nido despite PCG’s assurance of protection, according to a source inside the BRP Melchora Aquino.
“The Atin Ito Christmas Convoy to the West Philippine Sea on Sunday was forced to cut short its journey, returning to El Nido, Palawan, due to the dangerous maneuvers conducted by several Chinese vessels,” Atin Ito said Monday.
“The captain of TS Kapitan Felix Oca, based on his expertise and experience as a veteran civilian captain, deemed the situation unsafe,” it added.
However, the source inside BRP Melchora Aquino pointed out that the shadowing activities of CCG vessels were normal in the area.
The trip from El Nido to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal was expected to take 32 hours, but the captain of TS Kapitan Felix Oca decided to return to the port after nearly 15 hours at sea because the vessel was being shadowed by a CCG ship.
The mothership left Manila on Friday, December 8, and arrived at San Fernando port in El Nido town the following morning. At around midnight Sunday, the civilian vessel, along with BRP Melchora Aquino, departed from El Nido and proceeded to the vicinity of Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal where the World War II-era BRP Sierra Madre is currently grounded.
However, the CCG fired water cannon at the vessels conducting a resupply mission.
The source inside the BRP Melchora Aquino said the captain of TS Kapitan Felix Oca was informed of the water cannon incident, but it could not be determined if this influenced the captain’s decision.
Meanwhile, another Philippine boat in the convoy, MV Chowee, which went ahead, were able to enter Lawak Island, where supplies were dropped off. The supplies will then be transferred to BRP Sierra Madre for the troops on board.