By Priam Nepomuceno

BRP Sierra Madre (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Philippine supply boats on Friday managed to complete their resupply mission to the Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) which is standing guard at the Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) despite harassment from the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese militia vessels.

“At 0730H (7:30 a.m.) today, 10 November 2023, CCG and CMM (Chinese maritime militia) vessels recklessly harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission to BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. CCG vessel 5203 deployed a water cannon against Philippine supply vessel M/L Kalayaan in an illegal though unsuccessful attempt to force the latter to alter course,” the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement.

The NTF-WPS said supply boats Unaizah Mae 1 (UM-1) and M/L Kalayaan were also subjected to “extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity” by CCG rigid-hulled inflatable boats inside the Ayungin Shoal lagoon as the Filipino vessels were approaching the BRP Sierra Madre.

“Nonetheless, both supply boats were able to successfully reach LS-57,” NTF-WPS said.

The task force said the Philippine Embassy in Beijing has protested these incidents before the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs has also reached out to them and conveyed our protest directly through the Maritime Communications Mechanism. We firmly insist that Chinese vessels responsible for these illegal activities leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately,” it added.

The NTF-WPS also condemned China’s latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate Philippine rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, which has put the lives of Filipino crew members at risk.

“The systematic and consistent manner in which the People’s Republic of China carries out these illegal and irresponsible actions puts into question and significant doubt the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue,” it noted.

This came following the aggressive maneuvering act of the CCG and CMM vessels that hit and damaged a Filipino resupply boat and one of its escorting Philippine Coast Guard ships on Oct. 22.

The NTF-WPS said Manila has always acted responsibly, consistent with a rules-based international law, on the basis of the United Nations Conventions on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS )and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

It also noted that peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. commends the courage, commitment, and dedication to duty of the men and women of the Philippine Navy-Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Coast Guard who go on these missions, placing their lives on the line in the service of the nation,” the NTF-WPS said.

It said the Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

“We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” the NTF-WPS added. (PNA)