Filipino crew injured; PH reprimands China over latest harassment

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

March 23, 2024, 6:35 pm

<p><span class="x193iq5w xeuugli x13faqbe x1vvkbs x1xmvt09 x1lliihq x1s928wv xhkezso x1gmr53x x1cpjm7i x1fgarty x1943h6x xudqn12 x3x7a5m x6prxxf xvq8zen xo1l8bm xzsf02u x1yc453h" dir="auto"><strong>ON A MISSION.</strong> Philippine Navy soldiers and essential cargoes are transferred from Unaizah May 4 and BRP Cabra to BRP Sierra Madre off Ayungin Shoal on Saturday morning (March 23, 2024). The resupply boat Unaizah May 4 was damaged by yet another water cannon attack by the China Coast Guard. <em>(Photo courtesy of AFP)</em><br /></span></p>

ON A MISSION. Philippine Navy soldiers and essential cargoes are transferred from Unaizah May 4 and BRP Cabra to BRP Sierra Madre off Ayungin Shoal on Saturday morning (March 23, 2024). The resupply boat Unaizah May 4 was damaged by yet another water cannon attack by the China Coast Guard. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – The Philippines rebuked China over its latest acts off Ayungin Shoal that severely damaged a Filipino resupply boat on its way to resupply troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre on Saturday morning.

The crew members of Unaizah May 4 (UM4) were also injured after China Coast Guard (CCG) directed water cannons against the resupply boat.

“The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) latest acts of unprovoked aggression, coercion, and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine Philippine RoRe (routine rotation and resupply) mission to Ayungin Shoal, have once again placed at risk, caused severe damage to property, and caused physical harm to Filipinos on board UM4,” the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement.

“The systematic and consistent manner in which the PRC continues to carry out these illegal and irresponsible actions belies its hollow claims to peace, dialogue, and adherence to international law.”

National Security Adviser and NTF-WPS Chairperson Eduardo Año will meet with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and the National Security Cluster on March 25 to craft recommendations that will be submitted to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

The NTF-WPS said the Philippines will continue to “act peacefully and responsibly,” consistent with international laws, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the legally binding 2016 Arbitral Award.

It said  the Philippines will remain undeterred neither by “veiled threats or hostility” from exercising its rights over its maritime zones, including the Ayungin Shoal.

“Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others,” the task force said.

“We demand that China demonstrate in deeds and not in words that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” it added.


At around 4 a.m., the NTF-WPS said CCG worked in tandem with Chinese maritime militia vessels and “acted recklessly and dangerously” against UM4 and its Philippine Coast Guard escort vessels, BRP Sindangan and BRP Cabra.

This culminated with two CCG ships water cannoning the UM4, causing severe damage to the boat and injuries to the Filipinos onboard.

The NTF-WPS said the Chinese vessels even attempted to obstruct BRP Sindangan and Cabra from providing immediate relief and assistance to the disabled UM4 and her crew, but the PCG ships broke through.

The injured crew of UM4 received medical attention aboard BRP Cabra.

To complete the RORE mission, BRP Sierra Madre deployed rigid-hulled inflatable boats to UM4 to ferry personnel.

The CCG attempted to again obstruct and impede the RORE by placing a floating barrier at the northwestern entrance of Ayungin Shoal’s lagoon.

Despite these, the NTF-WPS said the RORE was accomplished around 11:59 a.m., with the contingent leaving the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal about 12:09 p.m.

“The actions of the agents of the PRC today in the waters of the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone) showed to the Filipino people, the region, and the world that the PRC recognizes no reasonable or legal restraint nor limitation upon its actions under international law,” the task force said.


Various heads of foreign missions in the Philippines, meanwhile, expressed concern over the latest incident in the West Philippine Sea.

In a post on X, Japanese Ambassador-designate to the Philippines Endo Kazuya said Tokyo stands in solidarity with Manila as confirmed during the first trilateral vice-ministerial meeting with the United States this week.

“Japan reiterates its grave concern on the repeated dangerous actions by CCG in SCS (South China Sea) which resulted in Filipino injuries,” he said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said the US also stands with the country against China’s repeated dangerous maneuvers to disrupt its lawful activities within its EEZ.

“The PRC’s interference with the Philippines freedom of navigation violates international law & threatens a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said on X.

European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron said the “recurring” acts are concerning and reiterated the bloc’s call for all parties to abide by the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

“Concerned by recurring dangerous manoeuvres, blocking and water-cannoning from Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Maritime Militia against Philippine vessels engaged in resupply missions,” he said. “The EU reiterates the call for all parties to abide by the legally binding 2016 Arbitration Award and international law to peacefully resolve disputes, guaranteeing safety for all in maritime waters.”

Netherlands Ambassador to the Philippines Marielle Geraedts echoed the EU Delegation’s position and underscored the importance of abiding by the international law.

“New Zealand is deeply concerned at further actions today by Chinese vessels towards the Philippines at Second Thomas Shoal,” the New Zealand Embassy in Manila said. “These endanger lives at sea. It is fundamental to regional stability that maritime disputes are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS.”

United Kingdom (UK) Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils said Great Britain opposes any action that raises tensions and threaten regional peace and stability.

"The UK condemns today's dangerous actions by Chinese vessels against the Philippines. This endangered lives and resulted in significant damage to a civilian vessel," she said on X. "We once again urge adherence to UNCLOS."

'Your fault'

As in previous incidents, China justified its harassment, saying the “Philippines should immediately stop its infringement and provocation, and refrain from undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

In a statement posted on the Embassy of China in the Philippines website, the PRC claimed the Philippines sent its supply vessel “without permission from the Chinese government, to intrude into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao of China’s Nansha Qundao, in an attempt to send construction materials to the military vessel illegally grounded at Ren’ai Jiao for its repair and reinforcement.”

It said the CCG had to take “necessary measures” to safeguard China's rights.

China refers to Ayungin Shoal as Ren’ai Jiao and Spratly Islands as Nansha Qundao. (With reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)