MANILA – China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels water cannoned yet again Philippine boats and their escorts that were on regular rotation and resupply (RORE) mission to the BRP Sierra Made (LS-57) in Ayungin Shoal Sunday.
The latest harassment damaged two of the four Filipino ships, but the RORE mission was carried out, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).
The Philippine vessels involved were M/L Kalayaan, along with BRP Cabra, BRP Sindangan, and Unaizah Mae (UM) 1, the task force said.
On Saturday morning, three Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels providing humanitarian support to Filipino fisherfolk off Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) were also water cannoned at least eight times by CCG ships while a long-range acoustic device caused severe temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew.
"Today, 10 December 2023, CCG and CMM vessels harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers on Philippine civilian supply vessels, in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine RORE to BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. CCG vessel 5204 deployed a water cannon against the Philippine supply vessels causing severe damage to M/L Kalayaan’s engines, disabling the vessel and seriously endangering the lives of its crew. Currently, PCG vessel BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) is safely towing M/L Kalayaan back to Ulugan Bay, Palawan," the task force said.
The NTF-WPS said BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) sustained damage in its mast after being directly hit by the water cannons.
Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for WPS, Commodore Jay Tarriela, confirmed in his X account that UM1 was also water cannoned by the CCG.
However, he did not give details on what damage it sustained.
"The PCG vessels and the resupply boats Unaizah Mae 1 and M/L Kalayaan were subjected to reckless and dangerous harassment at close range by CCG and CMM vessels on their approach to Ayungin Shoal. Contrary to China Coast Guard disinformation, UM1 was rammed by CCG 21556,” the statement said.
The NTF-WPS said China's latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine Philippine RORE to Ayungin Shoal put the lives of Filipino crew members at risk.
"The systematic and consistent manner in which the People's Republic of China carries out these illegal and irresponsible actions puts into question and significant doubt the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue. Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community," the task force said.
It added that the Philippines would continue to act according to international laws.
"The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal, which forms part of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and continental shelf," the task force said, adding that these rights are guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and 2016 arbitral ruling.
House condemns aggressive actions
Meanwhile, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez strongly condemned the attacks against Philippine vessels, describing it as blatant violation of international norms and a direct challenge to the sovereignty and rights of the Philippines.
“The use of water cannons and long-range acoustic devices against our vessels, causing significant damage and distress to our crew, is unacceptable and unjustifiable,” he said.
He reminded the international community that Bajo de Masinloc lies within the Philippines' 370-km exclusive EEZ.
“The acts of intimidation and harassment against Filipino fisherfolk, who depend on these waters for their livelihood, are not only a violation of their rights but also an affront to human dignity. To prevent the distribution of humanitarian support is not only illegal but also inhumane,” Romualdez further said.
At the same time, Romualdez expressed disappointment over Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s outright dismissal of House Resolution No. 1494, condemning China’s activities in the WPS and urging the government to defend sovereign rights over the country’s EEZ.
"China's rejection of the resolution is disheartening, especially in light of its continued illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea, a clear violation of the UNCLOS Arbitral Award," he said.
He maintained that China’s construction of artificial islands and militarization of the area, as detailed in the resolution, “demonstrates a disregard for international law and poses a threat to regional stability."
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez categorized as “baseless narratives” China’s rejection of a resolution adopted by the lower House.
“It is our prerogative to express our collective sense on continued Chinese intrusion and encroachment on our maritime waters, and their persistent harassment and bullying of our navy, coast guard and fishermen. No country can deny us that,” Rodriguez said.
Despite the ongoing harassment, Romualdez emphasized the Philippines' commitment to diplomatic solutions. (With a report from Zaldy de Layola)