MANILA – The latest resupply mission for the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) in Ayungin Shoal was completed Friday, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) confirmed.
"The NTF-WPS reports that in the morning of 08 September 2023, the Western Command, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), assisted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), successfully resupplied the BRP Sierra Madre stationed at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea," it said in a statement.
However, the NTF-WPS said it was also informed that the China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia (CMM) again conducted "harassment, dangerous maneuvers" against Philippine public vessels involved in the operation.
“The routine RoRe (routine rotation and resupply) mission was again subjected to dangerous maneuvers by four CCG and four CMM [ships], jeopardizing the crew members' safety aboard the PCG vessels and Philippine resupply boats,” confirmed Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for WPS, as posted on X (formerly Twitter).
He identified the four CCG vessels as CCG 21616, 21551, 21556 and 5305; and the four CMM vessels as Qiong Sansha Yu 00231, 00115, 00114 and 00008.
The last resupply for BRP Sierra Madre took place on Aug. 22, an offshoot of the partially successful resupply mission on Aug. 5, which was marred by Chinese blockading and water cannoning incident.
"We reiterate and reemphasize that these operations are pursuant to our government's legitimate exercise of its administrative functions and jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea, firmly anchored on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award," the NTF-WPS emphasized.
It also strongly condemned the continued illegal, aggressive and destabilizing conduct of the CCG and the CMM within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
"We reiterate what President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said during the recently concluded 43rd ASEAN Summit regarding the South China Sea: 'Practical cooperation in the maritime domain can only flourish with an enabling environment of regional peace, security, and stability anchored in international law.' We call on all to do their part in ensuring a peaceful and rules-based international order in the oceans," NTF-WPS stressed.
Tarriela said their two 44-meter vessels -- BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan -- escorted the AFP mission.
“Despite the challenging circumstances brought about by the illegal presence and activities of the CCG and CMM in our exclusive economic zone, the mission was carried out successfully. The much-needed supplies were delivered to our dedicated troops aboard the BRP Sierra Madre,” he said.
Like the NTF-WPS, he again called on the CCG and CMM to “immediately cease any illegal activities” within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone to “foster a stable, secure, and rules-based maritime order conducive to regional cooperation and peace.”
AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said the successful resupply shows the country's firm resolve to assert its sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
It also highlighted the Philippines' determination to "look after the well being of our soldiers who are stationed not only in Ayungin Shoal, but in every remote post in the country," he added.
Aguilar scored the unprofessional act and dangerous maneuvers conducted by the CCG and its maritime militia but stressed that such actions will never prevail over the conduct of legal and legitimate operations that support rules-based international order.
"We express our deep appreciation to the guidance of the NTF-WPS and the ever reliable support of the PCG in accomplishing this mission. With the strong support of our people, we will succeed," he said.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri thanked and congratulated the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard for accomplishing the third mission in five weeks.
“Once again, I salute our men and women of the AFP and PCG for fearlessly staying on track to complete their mission, despite intimidation from the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels,” he said in a press statement.
“As long as the law and truth are on our side, illegal barriers to what is ours will continue to be pierced, by the sharp tip of world opinion that upholds our cause as just,” he added.
Despite the success, Zubiri called for caution and vigilance as “China continues to block our vessels on our waters.”
He also said that the Senate is prepared to assist the AFP and PCG with their budgets, “in the aim of developing a credible self-defense posture that will allow them to continue protecting our country and our people.” (With a report from Leonel Abasola /PNA)