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AFP says latest resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal successful

The Philippines’ latest resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal has been successful, the military said Friday.

"Yes, successful ang pag-resupply (the resupply mission was successful)," said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. 

In a separate statement, military spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar said "this tactical operation is a manifestation of our firm resolve to assert our sovereign rights and jurisdiction in our maritime zones, and the fulfillment of our responsibility to look after the well being of our soldiers who are stationed not only in Ayungin Shoal, but in every remote post in the country."

"The unprofessional act and dangerous maneuvers conducted by the China Coast Guard and its maritime militia will never prevail over our conduct of legal and legitimate operations that support rules-based international order," Medel said

He also expressed gratitude to the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Coast Guard for the guidance and support in accomplishing such mission.

August 5 incident

It was the third resupply mission after the August 5 incident where the Chinese Coast Guard used water cannons against the Philippine Coast Guard fleet conducting a similar mission.

Another resupply mission was conducted and completed on August 22.

A Philippine ship, BRP Sierra Madre, has been grounded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999. The ship, which is manned by more than a dozen Marines and sailors, has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.

Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group, which is an integral part of the Philippines, as well as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

The shoal is being claimed by China, which calls it Ren'ai Jiao.

Former US Air Force official and ex-Defense Attaché Ray Powell, who has been monitoring the mission, earlier in the day said Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan escorted the resupply boats.

In a series of tweets early Friday morning, Powell said two China Coast Guard ships and 10 maritime militia vessels were "blocking" entrance to Ayungin Shoal.

"Previous resupply missions encountered 'dark' China Coast Guard ships (not broadcasting automatic information system, or AIS). Unclear if dark ships present today, but forward deployment of so many militia ships suggests fewer CCG than before," Powell said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

One Chinese cargo ship,  Chang Zheng 1 Hao, was also present for "unknown purposes," Powell said.

According to the military, the Philippine fleet entered the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal past 10:03 a.m. As of posting time, the boats were unloading their cargoes containing the supplies for the personnel manning BRP Sierra Madre.

The fleet will return to Palawan province after the mission.

Dangerous maneuvers

The National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) strongly deplored and condemned “the continued illegal, aggressive, and destabilizing conduct of the CCG (China Coast Guard) and the CMM (Chinese Maritime Militia) within our nation's EEZ.”

“The Task Force is also informed that the harassment, dangerous maneuvers, and aggressive conduct of the vessels of the CCG and CMM against our public vessels took place again during the conduct of routine and regular operations well within our nation's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” it said in a statement.

For the task force, the resupply operations were according to the Philippine government's legitimate exercise of its administrative functions and jurisdiction over the WPS.

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri's office shared a video that showed an alleged CCG vessel seemingly tailing and attempting to come close to Philippine ships en route to the shoal.

“The grey ships are ours but the one na nagsisingit sa likod at gustong banggain ang supply at Navy boats natin is CCG. Doing very dangerous maneuvers,” said Zubiri.

(The grey ships are ours, but the one that is slipping in from behind and threatening to ram our supply and Navy boats is CCG. Doing very dangerous maneuvers,” he said.)

In a statement later in the day, the spokesperson of China Coast Guard expressed firm opposition to the resupply mission saying it was done "without the permission of the Chinese government."

China has objected to the resupply missions, saying the Philippines is "transporting construction materials" to the grounded ship "with the intent of permanently occupying" the shoal.

China earlier claimed that the Philippine government had promised to remove the vessel in the Ayungin Shoal. It claims that the shoal is part of its territory in the South China Sea.

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has dismissed China's demand to remove BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal, saying the grounded ship is a permanent military station tasked to "protect and secure Philippine rights and interests in the West Philippine Sea."

No less than President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has denied that the Philippine government had promised China to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal. He also said that he is rescinding any commitment should there really be an existing agreement between the Philippines and China on the removal of the vessel. 

Senate ready to help with budget

In a statement, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri congratulated the Philippine Navy and the PCG for completing another resupply mission.

"Once again, I salute our men and women of the AFP and PCG for fearlessly staying on track to complete their mission, despite intimidation from the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels," he said.

"This is a humanitarian resupply mission. Only barbarians at the gate will delight at seeing soldiers on a peaceful mission denied of food."

Zubiri also said the Senate is prepared to assist the AFP and PCG with their budget, "in aim of developing a credible self-defense posture that will allow them to continue protecting our country and our people." —KBK/RSJ/AOL, GMA Integrated News