MANILA – Members of the "Ayungin 9" Marines met with Vice-President Jejomar Binay at the Coconut Palace on Thursday, where they described their experiences and living conditions at the BRP Sierra Madre.
Meeting with Binay were 1st Lt. Mike C. Pelotera, TSgt Julio Ventoza, Pfc Mario Gerlene Pajarillo, Cpl Rogelio Tabilisma, Tsgt Joselito D. Panganiban, and Sgt Edwin Galvan.
They, together with Pfc Ryan Esteban, Sgt. Rey Sarmiento, and Cpl. Sheffrey T. Luna, who were not able to make it for the meeting, were replaced by fresh troops during the March 29 mission that was blocked twice by Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
These Marines stayed for five months inside the BRP Sierra Madre, an old hospital ship purposely marooned at the Ayungin Shoal to serve as a base for the Philippine troops.
Binay congratulated the soldiers for their bravery during their deployment at Ayungin Shoal.
He also expressed awe over their experience, and said he is able to relate because of his Marine reservist status.
When asked what he thought about the conditions of the troops in Ayungin, Binay said it is part of a soldier's life, and that he is proud of all the soldiers stationed in Ayungin and other areas of the Kalayaan Island Group.
Both China and the Philippines claim Ayungin Shoal as part of their sovereign territory.
Binay refused to comment on the actions of China, saying the Philippine case had already been submitted for arbitration. But he said this: "We will fight for our territory until the last blood."