By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT. Philippine Coast Guard personnel on Thursday (May 2, 2024) assess the damage sustained by BRP Bagacay following a water cannon attack by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel near Bajo de Masinloc. Initial assessment has found damage in the ship’s superstructure, with further assessments looking into the structural integrity of the ship. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Chinese Coast Guard’s (CCG) use of “jet stream pressure” water cannon against Philippine vessels on routine humanitarian mission to Bajo de Masinloc has heightened the tension in the West Philippine Sea, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official said.

National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said the April 30 attack on BRP Bagacay and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel BRP Bankaw highlights China’s “lack of concern for regional peace and stability.”

“This is the first time that the Coast Guard vessel has been subject to a direct water cannon with that kind of pressure that resulted in structural damage,” Tarriela said.

He said the water pressure used by the CCG was so forceful that it damaged both Philippine vessels.

“Their actions reveal their true intentions and expose their pretentious facade of claiming to be a benevolent rising power,” Tarriela said.

He said the country’s transparency tactic in its clashes with China in the WPS has been a success in “showing the world the barbaric and unruly behavior of China, who resort to using force to justify their greed.”

“China has forgotten that transparency aims to expose their illegal actions, which they once successfully portrayed as gray zone tactics,” he said.

Following China’s use of “jet stream pressure”, he said they would make a recommendation and report it to the NTF.

Damage assessment

In a statement Thursday, PCG spokesperson, Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said preliminary assessment found that Bagacay incurred damage to its superstructure — the ship’s main area — including a collapsed railing and canvas roof.

PCG Commandant, Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan has ordered the Coast Guard Fleet to evaluate the structural integrity of the vessel and determine needed repairs.

“We are also providing its crew with comprehensive medical check-ups to ensure their well-being. Our personnel know the risks, yet they continue to fulfill their duties as public servants,” Balilo said.

He assured the PCG Command would provide for the needs of its personnel in the performance of their duty.

Despite the attack, he said the PCG would continue to comply with the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to “continue to act peacefully and responsibly” in upholding the country’s sovereignty over its exclusive economic zones, including Bajo de Masinloc in the WPS. (PNA)