PCG spots China PLA assets during Ayungin resupply
October 8, 2023 | 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — The latest resupply mission for troops on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal saw “for the first time” the participation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the attempt by the Chinese to block the operation, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said yesterday.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Tarriela said a PLA-Navy ship with bow number 630 approached BRP Sindangan within a distance of only 0.5 nautical miles in a maneuver apparently meant to keep the Philippine vessel from getting close to the Sierra Madre.
Philippine resupply vessels were able to evade the Chinese eventually to unload their cargo on the Sierra Madre.
In his post, the PCG spokesman also said “PLA aircraft Y8Q conducted surveillance in Sabina (Escoda) Shoal and left when the resupply contingent arrived near Ayungin Shoal.”
Tarriela also reported CCG and the Chinese maritime militia vessels “carried out eight dangerous maneuvers.”
He also said CCG ship 21556 “came as close as one meter to the (PCG) vessel BRP Sindangan.” According to photos and videos shared by Tarriela on X, the CCG vessel got dangerously close to the PCG vessel where journalists were on board taking videos.
In a PTV report, special envoy to China Teodoro Locsin Jr. was on board the BRP Cabra taking video of the incident. It was the first time a Filipino diplomat joined the resupply mission.
In a television interview, Tarriela said the CCG ships’ coming into close contact with PCG vessels was “disturbing” as it could have caused a collision that the Chinese could “take advantage of” by blaming it on the Filipinos.
“If our Coast Guard skippers were not good at piloting, a collision could have taken place and the Chinese might come up with a narrative that it’s our coast guard which rammed their vessel. That’s what we’re trying to avoid,” the PCG spokesman said in Filipino.
He also said on X that five Chinese maritime militia ships also “actively assisted the CCG in blocking our PCG vessels.”
“A total of four CCG vessels we dispatched to obstruct the resupply mission and they were actively assisted by five Chinese maritime militia vessels. Notably, two of the CCG vessels were nearly the same size as the MRRV,” Tarriela said referring to multi-role response vessel of the PCG patrol ships that served as escort during the resupply mission.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar yesterday branded as “disputable” China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands or the Kalayaan Island Group, including the Ayungin Shoal.
Aguilar was reacting to CCG spokesman Gan Yu’s pronouncement that China “has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including the Ren’ai Reef, and its adjacent waters, and firmly opposes the illegal delivery of construction materials by the Philippines to the illegally grounded warship.” China was referring to Kalayaan Island Group and the Ayungin Shoal by their names assigned by Beijing.
“For one, the UNCLOS says no to its claim. Second, the arbitral award invalidated it. Third is several countries have expressed their support to the Philippines and to the rules-based international order, while no one has openly supported China in its actions at the WPS,” Aguilar said at the Saturday News Forum at the Dapo Restaurant and Bar.
He said China’s “irresponsible actions” in the West Philippine Sea “are leading it to global isolation.”
In its 2016 decision on a case filed by Manila in 2013 questioning Beijing’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea, the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague invalidated China’s nine-dash line and reaffirmed the Philippines’ own maritime entitlements. The arbitral tribunal said its ruling was based on UNCLOS.
The AFP spokesman declined to elaborate when asked what the military intends to do to stop the Chinese from harassing Philippine supply missions for the Sierra Madre or for troops on Pag-Asia Island in the KIG.
“These are matters that are quite sensitive and delicate and we don’t want to telegraph what is inside our mind because this is a matter of national security,” he said.
But he reminded the CCG that it has no authority over Philippine vessels operating in the West Philippine Sea.
“What we do to our BRP Sierra Madre is none of their business and they should not interfere,” Aguilar said. – Emmanuel Tupas, Marc Jayson Cayabyab