Resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal deferred due to technical woes

By Priam Nepomuceno

January 22, 2024, 5:35 pm

<p>BRP Sierra Madre <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

BRP Sierra Madre (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday confirmed that a rotation and resupply (RORE) mission intended for the Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) over the weekend was postponed after one of the vessels tasked for the mission had a "technical difficulty".

"We're dependent on the vessel that's going to be used. So at this point, we identified that there was 'technical difficulty' in the vessel that was supposed to be used for such (a) mission," AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said in an interview with reporters.

The vessel that sustained the "technical difficulty" was identified as the Unaizah Mae 1, one of the two ships regularly used by the military for RORE missions.

Padilla did not give specific details on the matter, citing security reasons.

The Ayungin Shoal is the area in the WPS where the Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre is standing guard.

"So until such time that we determine that the vessel to be used is seaworthy, that's the time we can reschedule another RORE mission," Padilla said.

Asked whether the troops are in any danger of starving due to the postponed resupply mission, the AFP spokesperson said Filipino soldiers are "trained for any eventualities".

Padilla also said the AFP would also endeavor to provide these troops "their due provisions".

While aircraft can be used to deliver supplies, she added that this could be done in "emergency situations".

During the last RORE for the Ayungin Shoal on Dec. 10 last year, China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and their maritime militia constantly harassed and tried to block Philippine ships engaged in the mission.

CCG ships also used their water cannons and this caused damage to the M/L Kalayaan, one of the resupply vessels, while one of the escorts, BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409), had its mast damaged by a water cannon blast.

Unaizah Mae-1 was also subjected to the same harassment but was able to deliver its supplies to Filipino troops. (PNA)