Chinese vessels again maneuvered dangerously against Philippine ships in the recent resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said Friday.
“The Task Force is also informed that the harassment, dangerous maneuvers, and aggressive conduct of the vessels of the China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese Maritime Militia (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),” the NTF-WPS said in a statement.
The NTF-WPS strongly deplored and condemned “the continued illegal, aggressive, and destabilizing conduct of the CCG and the CMM within our nation's EEZ.”
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.
It cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award for the operations.
The NTF-WPS also quoted President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. during the 43rd ASEAN Summit regarding the South China Sea: “Practical cooperation in the maritime domain can only flourish with an enabling environment of regional peace, security, and stability anchored in international law.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday conducted another resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal.
The resupply boats were escorted by the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan.
US Air Force official and ex-Defense Attaché Ray Powell said two China Coast Guard ships and 10 maritime militia vessels tried to block the Philippine ships.
A Chinese cargo ship was also present for unclear purposes, he added.
"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.
Despite the efforts of the Chinese vessels, the AFP said the resupply mission was successful.
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.
"Boats in the video are Chinese Militia boats and Chinese Coast Guard. So in the video, we have 2 ships while China has 3," the senator said on Saturday.
On Friday, Zubiri referred to the Philippine ships as "Navy boats". However, he clarified this on Saturday and said it was "our Coast Guard ships [that] were escorting our supply vessels. Our Navy ships were farther away monitoring the situation."
The AFP earlier announced it successfully conducted another replenishment mission to troops stationed at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
This is the third resupply mission after the August 5 incident when the CCG 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. A dozen marines and sailors arre aboard the ship, which has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.
Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group is an integral part of the Philippines, as well as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which the country has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.
China, for its part, expressed “firm opposition” to the resupply mission, claiming that the Philippines illegally transported construction materials to the commissioned navy ship.
It also said that CCG vessels “strictly warned the Philippine vessels in accordance with the law, tracked and monitored the vessels all the way, and effectively regulated them”.
“The CCG will continue to carry out law enforcement activities in the sea areas under China's jurisdiction according to law,” the Chinese government added.
In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, based on a case filed by Manila, junked China's nine-dash line claim covering the entire SCS. Beijing has refused to acknowledge the ruling. — DVM/KG, GMA Integrated News