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PH Navy: Up to 25 Chinese warships seen around Mischief Reef

The Philippine Navy on Tuesday reported that some 15 to 25 Chinese warships have been spotted around Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef, just some 25 miles away from Ayungin Shoal where the government is set to deploy a resupply mission for troops at a military outpost there.

At a press conference, Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said that 200 Chinese militia ships and 10 to 15 China Coast Guard ships were also observed around the area.

"This is in Mischief Reef. Every now and then they get deployed all over the South China Sea… At any time, they will be moving, some of them will be anchored, especially the maritime militia, so it is difficult to give you the exact number at an exact point in time," the Navy spokesman said.

Despite this, Trinidad said that the situation is "not alarming" and is considered "normal."

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it will also continue with the resupply missions at the BRP Sierra Madre despite the swarming of the Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal.

The BRP Sierra Madre is a World War II ship grounded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999, which has been a symbol of the country's soverignity at the West Philippine Sea.

The resupply missions via sea vessels will resume once resupply ships have been repaired.

Late last week, former United States Air Force official and ex-Defense Attaché Ray Powell said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that some 50 Chinese vessels were monitored near Ayungin Shoal.

Saying that the number of Chinese ships in the area had increased compared to the previous week, Powell said that, "China may be keeping force levels high there until after the Philippines' next resupply of nearby 2nd Thomas Shoal."

Over the weekend, the China Coast Guard said it had made "temporary special arrangements" so that the Philippines could proceed with the resupply mission at the BRP Sierra Madre.

The AFP, in response, stressed that the Philippine government does not need permission from any country to deliver supplies to troops stationed at the Ayungin Shoal.

This was echoed by the Philippine Navy.

"The Philippine Navy in particular and the AFP in general does not need to seek any permission from any foreign power. We could sail and fly in support of our constitutional mandate," Trinidad said. — VDV, GMA Integrated News