AFP: Chinese presence in WPS won’t stop supply trips
The Philippine military on Tuesday said there was no stopping the government from bringing fresh supplies to troops stationed in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) despite the presence of Chinese vessels in “almost all” resupply missions of the Philippines at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in 2023.
Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said the Philippines had 14 rotation and resupply (Rore) missions last year to troops at the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as Manila’s military outpost in Ayungin, an underwater feature about 195 kilometers off Palawan province.
“For the [Chinese] presence, I would say, with a certain degree of certainty, almost all—if not all—[Rore missions had] a presence of at least one [China] Coast Guard and maritime militia,” Trinidad said at a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Of the 14 resupply missions to Ayungin last year, Trinidad said there were three water cannon attacks by Chinese ships.
He was referring to the Aug. 5 incident where a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel fired water cannons at a Philippine resupply boat on its way to Ayungin, and similar episodes on Nov. 10 and Dec. 10.
A CCG ship making “dangerous blocking maneuvers” also collided with a Philippine supply boat on the same day.
“We do not gauge the success of the mission based on the interference or intervention of the maritime militia or the [CCG]. We based it on the conduct of the missions successfully delivering the supplies and to rotate the troops,” Trinidad pointed out.
He earlier said that the Philippine Navy had spotted about 15 to 25 warships near Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, some 37 km southeast of Ayungin, adding that 200 Chinese maritime militia vessels, including 10 to 15 CCG ships, were also spotted in the West Philippine Sea.
In the same press briefing, Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, AFP spokesperson, said that in 2023, the Philippines had 28 Rore missions in Philippine-occupied features in the West Philippine Sea.
Padilla added that the Philippines had a “flawless” resupply mission to troops at Ayungin and in Pag-asa Island, Rizal Reef, Patag, Lawak, Kota, Parola, Likas and Panata Islands in the Spratlys last week.
Over the weekend, China claimed that a Philippine vessel had “illegally landed” on a disputed atoll in the South China Sea.
But Padilla said the resupply missions were part of regular operations in line with the military’s constitutional mandate.
On Tuesday, various groups of Filipino fishers and activists staged a protest in front of the Chinese consulate to condemn the repeated harassment by Chinese militia and coast guard of Filipino fisherfolk in the West Philippine Sea.
The protesters, led by Pamalakaya, Bayan and P1NAS, demanded China to stop its harassment and leave and dismantle its military facilities inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“China has no authority to drive away and prevent the activities of Filipino fishers in our territorial waters. This recent incident deserves a strong indignation not only from the fisherfolk sector but also from all patriotic and freedom-loving Filipinos,” said Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap.
The protesters also called on China to withdraw all its ships from Panatag Shoal and the whole of the Philippines’ EEZ. —WITH A REPORT FROM RUSSEL LORETO INQ