NMC recommends regular, announced resupply missions to Ayungin

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

June 21, 2024, 8:52 pm

MANILA – The National Maritime Council (NMC) has recommended to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. that the rotation and resupply (RORE) missions for BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) be made routine and scheduled regularly, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin announced on Friday.

In a news conference, Bersamin said this was among the policy recommendations of NMC, which he chairs, during its second meeting for the President's consideration.

"Among these recommendations is the announcement of the rotation and reprovision missions to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, which shall remain routinary and will be scheduled regularly," he said.

The China Coast Guard (CCG) committed more violent attacks against Filipino soldiers during a RORE mission to the BRP Sierra Madre on June 17.

Bersamin said it would be in the best interest of all parties to publicize the schedule of the resupply missions in Ayungin Shoal to avoid tensions.

Bersamin also called for stronger cooperation among various government agencies to manage the country's maritime concerns.

"Security challenges remain in our waters beyond the West Philippine Sea. Let us continue to anchor our policies and strategies on promoting the national interest of our maritime and archipelagic country," Bersamin said.

Bersamin noted that a "peaceful, stable and prosperous West Philippine Sea and South China Sea" still remain a "distant reality."

Bersamin said the June 17 incident cannot be considered an armed attack.

''No, well this was probably a misunderstanding or accident. We are not yet ready to classify this as an armed attack. I don't know kung 'yung mga nakita namin is mga (what we saw there were) bolo, ax, nothing beyond that,'' Bersamin said.

Photos and videos released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) showed that CCG personnel launched dangerous maneuvers, rammed, boarded and looted Philippine rigid-hull rubber boats (RHIBs) involved in the resupply mission.

CCG troops also damaged sensitive equipment of the RHIBs and punctured the craft, aside from threatening the Filipino crew members with pointed and bladed weapons.

One Philippine Navy soldier lost his right thumb during the melee.

Bersamin said the government is not yet considering elevating it to a higher international body for intervention.

"That's not yet into consideration because I think this is a matter that can easily be resolved very soon by us, and if China wants to work with us, we can. We'll work with China," Bersamin said.

Presidential Assistant for Maritime Concerns Andres Centino, for his part, said the ramming incident is not yet a case for invoking the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States.

"About the invocation of the mutual defense treaty, that has not been considered in our discussions," he said. (PNA)