PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan – China has deployed five vessels – a survey ship, a frigate and three surveillance vessels – close to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
A Philippine Air Force (PAF) Nomad plane saw the Chinese deployment while delivering provisions to the Marine troops on the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal.
The STAR joined yesterday’s airdrop operations and saw several Chinese ships in the area.
The Chinese vessels include two surveillance ships with Bow No. 3111 and 3102; XiangYonghong 10, a survey ship; a Jianghu-V Class frigate, and one unmarked white ship from their forward naval station at Panganiban Reef.
Last March, two Chinese surveillance ships tried to block the troop rotation and provisioning operations at Ayungin. The bow numbers of the two vessels are different from those that were sighted in the area yesterday morning.
The territorial patrol was launched yesterday over the area to support the airdrop of provisions for the troops in the shoal.
China has been trying to occupy Ayungin Shoal since last year and even volunteered to remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, free of charge, from the shoal.
The area is considered a new flashpoint due to the aggressive behavior of China in claiming the area as an integral part of its maritime domain. Ayungin is only 105 nautical miles from mainland Palawan and more than 700 nautical miles from the nearest Chinese land mass in Hainan province.