AFP, PCG condemn China Coast Guard’s ‘unlawful actions’ in WPS

By Priam Nepomuceno

August 6, 2023, 12:03 pm

<p><em>(Courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)</em></p>

(Courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday expressed grave concern over China Coast Guard’s (CCG) “excessive and unlawful actions” when it used water cannon against Filipino resupply vessels near Ayungin Shoal on Saturday.

"One of our chartered supply boats was blocked and water cannoned by a CCG vessel yesterday (Saturday), August 5, while en route to Ayungin Shoal for a routine troop rotation and resupply mission (RORE)," Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the AFP, said in a statement.

Aguilar was referring to the incident when CCG water cannoned Philippine vessels escorting boats delivering supplies to AFP personnel stationed on BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Aguilar said the CCG vessel took an unlawful action without thinking of the safety of those aboard.

The move, he said, was “in wanton disregard of the safety of the people on board and in violation of international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.”

The Philippine Coast Guard also condemned the CCG’s “dangerous” actions.

“The Philippine Coast Guard strongly condemns the CCG’s dangerous maneuvers and illegal use of water cannons against the PCG vessels escorting the indigenous boats chartered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said in a separate statement.

The PCG urged CCG to “restrain its forces, respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, refrain from hampering freedom of navigation, and take appropriate actions against those involved in the incident.”

"We ask that China Coast Guard, as an organization with a responsibility to observe state obligations under UNCLOS, COLREGs (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea), and other relevant instruments of international maritime safety and security, to cease all illegal activities within the maritime zones of the Philippines," Tarriela said.

Following the attack, the second supply ship was unable to complete its mission.

"Because of the CCG’s dangerous maneuvers, the second supply boat was not able to unload the supplies and could not complete the RORE mission," Aguilar added.

He urged the CCG and the Central Military Commission, China’s highest national defense organization, "to act with prudence and be responsible in their actions to prevent miscalculations and accidents that will endanger people's lives.”

Other countries against CCG action, too

Meanwhile, the United States said it stands "with our Philippine allies in the face of dangerous actions by the Coast Guard and maritime militia of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)."

"Firing water cannons and employing unsafe blocking maneuvers, PRC ships interfered with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and jeopardized the safety of the Philippine vessels and crew. Such actions by the PRC are inconsistent with international law and are the latest in repeated threats to the status quo in the South China Sea, directly threatening regional peace and stability.  By impeding necessary provisions from reaching the Filipino servicemembers stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, the PRC has also undertaken unwarranted interference in lawful Philippine mari0time operations," read a statement posted by the US Department of State's Office of the Spokesperson on Saturday.

"Australia is concerned by the latest actions directed against the Philippines, which are dangerous and destabilising. We reiterate our call for peace, stability, and respect for UNCLOS in the South China Sea - a vital international waterway," tweeted Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hae Kyong Yu on Sunday.

"Totally unacceptable any harassment & actions which infringe on lawful activities of the sea and endanger the navigational safety. We strongly support PH’s position; upholding maritime order based on UNCLOS & 2016 Arbitral Award," read another tweet by the Ambassador of Japan in the Philippines account, also on Sunday. (PNA)