PH Supply Vessels Defy Chinese Coast Guard Impediment in Ayungin Shoal

Despite Chinese coast guards' obstruction, the Philippine supply boats made a successful delivery to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Armed with courage and determination, two Philippine supply boats boats made it to the BRP Sierra Madre on Tuesday, defying the Chinese Coast Guard’s impediment in the Ayungin Shoal.

Supplies Successfully Delivered Despite Chinese Coast Guard’s Hostility

The Philippine supply boats continued their mission to bring supplies and materials to their fellow crew in the withered BRP Sierra Madre stationed in the Second Thomas Shoal.

Otherwise known as Ayungin Shoal, this atoll lies in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. It’s situated 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, Philippines. Despite its location in the Philippines’ economic zone, several nations still stress claims in the area.

While two Philippine Coast Guard boats escort the supply vessels to BRP Sierra Madre, a US Navy plane hovers overhead. The supply boats resisted the Chinese Coast Guard’s obstruction in a high-risk contention.

The Philippine Coast Guard boats, on the other hand, were stopped by at least four Chinese coast guard ships for around five hours in an extreme gridlock near the said atoll. Four Chinese vessels along with four purported military boats bounded BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan.

On Monday, two Philippine boats were able to deliver the needed supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre. Likewise, they were able to convey a new crew of sailors for the military outpost.

“We’re happy that the resupply mission succeeded despite all the dangerous blockings and other actions,” Cmdr. Emmanuel Dangate of the Cabra told AP.

Start of Confrontation in the Ayungin Shoal

On Monday night, the hostilities began when a Chinese coast guard boat started pursuing the Philippine vessels. The next day morning, both parties emphasised their territorial rights in a bombardment of radio message exchanges.

A man from the Chinese Coast Guard vessel said that to avoid miscalculation, the Philippine boats must leave and keep out, or they will suffer the full responsibility of all consequences. The Filipinos didn’t back off, prompting the Chinese radio caller to take countermeasures against the Philippine vessels due to “infringement and provocation”.

Chinese officials at the Manila embassy didn’t comment immediately regarding the encounter. Also, it’s still uncertain why the US Navy deployed a surveillance plane that flew for over three hours overhead during the encounter between the Chinese and Philippine coast guard boats.

According to U.S. Embassy spokesperson, Kanishka Gangopadhyay, he can’t provide any specifics. However, he said that all of their military activities in the country are conducted in complete coordination with their Philippine allies. The US doesn’t attribute to the South China Sea but specifies that freedom of navigation and flight, including resolving disputes without hostilities, is in its national interest.

Many times the Chinese Coast Guard boats fired water cannons at the Philippine supply boats to ward them off and prevent them from bringing supplies to their military outpost in the Ayungin Shoal. The supply boats’ crew claimed they were blocked, harassed, and interfered with.

“We are not going to back down in exposing their aggressive behaviour in the West Philippine Sea. We’re going to continue this transparency initiative. We believe this is our most effective tool in countering Chinese grey zone activity in the West Philippine Sea,” said Jay Tarriela, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman.

Chinese envoy to the Philippines, Huang Xilian said the incident happened and might recur if the Philippines won’t remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal. However, Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr claimed he has no recollection of withdrawing the rundown BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal.

Image Credit: Rhk111/WikimediaCommons