MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard's "white" ships will be assigned to resupply missions for Filipino Marines stationed on Ayungin Shoal, an official of the civilian armed service said on Tuesday.
PCG Vice Admiral Oscar Endona, during a Senate sub-committee hearing, said this will avoid a repetition of last month's incident wherein supply ships en route to BRP Sierra Madre were blocked and water cannoned by the Chinese coast guard.
"To avert the water cannon, Coast Guard vessels will be reprovisioning the marines assigned in Ayungin po in Sierra Madre. So hindi na po civilian vessel ang gagamitn sa reprovisioning of marines, troops in Ayungin. We will be using the white ships," he said.
Endona said the PCG will be diplomatic with the Chinese coast guard, but if the latter decides again to use water cannons against PCG's ships, Filipinos will respond also with their own water cannon.
"Our white ships also have water cannon, so pwede tayong gumanti ng water cannon," he said.
Endona also said that if the Chinese decide to occupy or invade Pag-asa Island, the Philippine-occupied area in the hotly-contested Spratly Islands, the Philippine Navy is mandated to respond, not the PCG.
The Philippine military late last month said it is addressing the living conditions of troops in BRP Sierra Madre, which Beijing recently demanded Manila to remove amid the two countries' competing territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.
The 100-meter tank landing ship was intentionally grounded at the shoal in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines' sovereignty claims in the Spratlys.
Despite an international arbitration ruling in 2016 that said it has no legal basis, China has aggressively claimed the majority of the South China Sea as its own, including the West Philippine Sea or the Philippines' EEZ.
— With a report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News
PCG, Ayungin Shoal, BRP Sierra Madre, West Philippine Sea, South China Sea, China