MANILA — A China Coast Guard vessel challenged and shadowed anew a Philippine boat bringing food, water and Christmas packages to troops assigned at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on Saturday, December 17.
Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (WESCOM), said the resupply mission was “successful” despite the challenging and shadowing of the CCG vessel, which was accompanied by several Chinese militia vessels.
According to Carlos, personnel of the CCG vessel issued radio challenges to the civilian supply boat that was contracted by the Philippine Navy to bring supplies to soldiers stationed in Ayungin Shoal.
The military official added the CCG vessel claimed that the sea where the supply boat was traversing was “under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China.”
“All our resupply missions under President Marcos, lahat naman sila (they were all) successful and unimpeded. Wala namang (There was no) incident. Normal na ‘yung challenges kahit pa nung past administrations. Every time we go there, normal na na they challenge us, we challenge back,” Carlos told ABS-CBN News on Monday.
He then continued, “Sa last resupply mission, same sa previous resupply missions. Every time we approach, they will call us through radio and they will issue their challenge saying we are entering the sea area under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China."
"We respond back naman saying we are on a regular mission within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and atin naman ‘yun, we have sovereign rights in the area, so sumasagot tayo ng ganun sa radio challenges nila.”
Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands occupied by the Philippines.
Carlos noted that after the radio challenges, the CCG vessel shadowed and sailed close to the Philippine supply boat. Personnel onboard the latter responded and imposed their jurisdiction in the area, and proceeded with their planned route.
“It’s (Shadowing) part of their challenge, and every time they challenge, they sail near our vessels to check kung ano ang vessel na pumapasok sa area nila. It’s the same, lumalapit lang sila, issue their challenge and we go our own way naman."
"Hindi naman tayo nabablock, there was no blocking incident this time. Tuluy-tuloy naman ang voyage ng ating resupply boats papasok sa Ayungin Shoal,” Carlos said.
The WESCOM reiterated the significance of the BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as the nearest Philippine outpost to China’s military garrison on Mischief Reef. The former Philippine Navy vessel was intentionally run aground in Ayungin Shoal to serve as detachment of troops in the West Philippine Sea.
Major Cherryl Tindog, WESCOM spokesperson, said that the recent resupply mission was the 11th iteration for this year and the 6th under the Marcos administration.
Last April, China blocked the entrance of Ayungin Shoal with nets and ropes, deployed Chinese militia vessels and rubber boats, and repeatedly warned against bringing construction materials.
In May, the nets were no longer blocking the supply entrance to the shoal. However, the CCG, several militia vessels and rubber boats remained in the area.
Tindog said the WESCOM considers the latest incident as “an encroachment on our territorial waters and a violation of our sovereign rights.”
CHINESE VESSELS REMAIN IN PARTS OF WPS
Meanwhile, Carlos confirmed to ABS-CBN News that around 20 Chinese vessels were still found swarming in Sabina Shoal near Palawan. The WESCOM conducted an aerial patrol over the area on Sunday.
“Yesterday, we flew a patrol over that area and namonitor natin na nandun pa rin sila,” he said. “Same number, more or less 20 vessels nandun sa Sabina Shoal. They claim they are fishing in the area. We continue to monitor their activities there.”
“Dito sa West Philippine Sea, any differences or issues we have with other foreign claimants or countries challenging our sovereign rights over the WPS, we’re going to resolve that peacefully through dialogue and diplomacy,” he added.
In an ANC interview Tuesday, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said they already reported this "observation" to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
"We have already forwarded this observation, the reports to the Department of Foreign Affairds because they are the ones right now pursuing through diplomatic means our claims over this area," he said.
The AFP also conduct "continuous" aerial and maritime patrol to ensure that Filipino fishermen are protected in the area.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June, earlier insisted he would not let China trample on the Philippines' maritime rights.
"It actually inspires us to do more and to be resilient, to be ready and because of the modernization program that he also promised to continue, they're very happy because we can perform what constitutional mandate is given to us and what the people expects from us," Aguilar said.