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PCG: 38 Chinese vessels monitored near Ayungin Shoal in latest resupply mission

The Philippine Coast Guard said on Saturday it had documented 38 Chinese vessels within the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal during its latest resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre.

"The total number of Chinese vessels that we detected during the supply operation was 16 maritime militia vessels that were physically monitored, 12 Chinese militia vessels, five China Coast Guard vessels, and five People's Liberation Army [vessels]," Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson on the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said in a media briefing.

"In total, we can say that there are a total of 38 Chinese vessels that are present within the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal during this particular resupply operation," he added.

Tarriela said that not all 38 Chinese vessels were involved in the blocking operations against the PCG vessels.

"Based on the presentation that we gave, there were only six CMMVs (Chinese Maritime Militia Vessels) that actively participated in the blocking operations, and there were five CCG vessels," he said.

"All in all, there were 11 that actively participated in carrying out dangerous maneuvers to the PCG vessels and also to the resupply boats," Tarriela added.

He said this was the highest number of Chinese vessels seen so far within the Ayungin Shoal, which is inside the Philippines’ 200-kilometer exclusive economic zone based on the 2016 Arbitral Award and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"If you are asking as to the number of Chinese vessels present in the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal, I think it's fair to say that this is the highest number because there were 38 documented," he said.

The PCG successfully entered Ayungin Shoal on Friday after evading several China Coast Guard vessels and Chinese militia vessels.

This allowed them to go near the BRP Sierra Madre and see the latest state of the grounded active naval post.

The PCG escorted two boats on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II ship grounded at the shoal since 1999 that stands as a symbol of the Philippines’ claim to the West Philippine Sea.

"You have the commitment of the Coast Guard that we're still going to carry out this mission despite the limited number of vessels and despite the increasing number of Chinese vessels that they are going to deploy," Tarriela said. —VBL, GMA Integrated News