PH eyes aerial trips to Ayungin to avoid China water blasts

PH eyes aerial trips to Ayungin to avoid China water blasts

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:50 AM May 08, 2024

China-Armed Forces of the Philippines

Philippine Supply Vessel Unaizah May 4 en route to Ayungin Shoal for a Rotation and Resupply Mission was water cannoned by a China Coast Guard around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. SCREENGRAB FROM ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES VIDEO POSTED ON FACEBOOK

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is considering aerial resupply missions to its remote outpost in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered adjustments to the conduct of the routine trips in the face of persistent water cannon attacks by Chinese vessels, the National Security Council (NSC) said on Tuesday.

Citing national security reasons, Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, the NSC spokesperson, refused to disclose the nature of the changes in the rotation and resupply trips to the BRP Sierra Madre, the rusted World War II-era warship that serves as the government’s military outpost in Ayungin.


READ: Marcos: PH won’t use water cannons


But Malaya said taking a route by air was among the options under consideration.

“We have an operational mix of options to do the resupply, including aerial resupply, and it’s something that we train for and do all the time,” he said.

Ayungin, an underwater feature, lies about 195 kilometers west of Palawan province, well within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone.

But China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia vessels regularly try to impede the passage of Philippine vessels bound for Ayungin, amid a dispute between Manila and Beijing over a supposed agreement on the conduct of the supply missions, among other maritime issues.

Damaged patrol vessel

The latest incident on April 30 involved another water cannon attack on the Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel BRP Bagacay, whose railing and body sustained damage estimated at P2 million to P3 million.


On Monday, Marcos ruled out the option of the Philippines retaliating against China with its own water cannons.

“We will not follow the [CCG] and the Chinese vessels down that road because it’s simply … not the mission of our Navy, our Coast Guard to start or increase tensions,” he said.

But “[the President] has ordered readjustments in our resupply missions to BRP Sierra Madre which we can’t divulge for national security reasons,” Malaya told the Inquirer.

In March, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command said the government would devise new tactics for its next resupply missions to Ayungin following China’s dangerous blocking maneuvers.

In the same month, seven Navy crew members were injured after two separate water cannon attacks by CCG ships as the former tried to bring supplies to the Sierra Madre.

Philippine resupply boats bound for Ayungin came under similar attacks from Chinese ships on Nov. 10 and Dec. 10 last year.

Airdropped supplies

It would not be the first time the Philippines took an aerial route to reach Ayungin.

In January, the AFP airdropped supplies to the troops at the Sierra Madre after the cancellation of a resupply mission due to technical problems.

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The Chinese Embassy in Manila has repeatedly claimed that the Philippines agreed to a new model to manage the situation in Ayungin, which government officials, including the President, have denied.

China also claimed that former President Rodrigo Duterte had accepted a “gentleman’s agreement” not to deliver construction and repair materials to the dilapidated Sierra Madre.

TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, BRP Sierra Madre, CCG, NSC

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