Philippines to resist if China removes Sierra Madre

Emmanuel Tupas, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Philippines to resist if China removes Sierra Madre
This file photo taken on April 23, 2023 shows the grounded Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre where marines are stationed to assert Manila's territorial claims at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. A crumbling World War II-vintage Philippine navy vessel stranded on a submerged reef in the South China Sea has long been a flashpoint between Manila and Beijing in their territorial dispute over the waters.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will resist any attempt by China to forcefully remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

The AFP, through spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar, made the commitment as it prepares to launch another resupply mission for troops stationed on the beached World War II era transport ship in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

“Of course, we will resist,” Aguilar said at the Saturday News Forum at the Dapo Restaurant and Bar.

The China Coast Guard (CCG) blocked a resupply mission on Aug. 5 by firing water cannon at one of the civilian ships carrying provisions for Marines on the Sierra Madre.

Widely condemned for its action, China claimed Ayungin Shoal is part of its territory and asked the Philippines to make good its supposed promise to remove the Sierra Madre from the area.

The Philippines has never made such a promise.

Medel said the CCG should behave and refrain from doing illegal and hostile acts that can endanger lives.

“All the consequences that will arise from their singular hostile act will be blamed on them and on those above them,” he said.

As per President Marcos’ directive, the AFP has vowed not to abandon Ayungin Shoal or stop sending provisions to the Sierra Madre.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), for its part, is ready to provide more of its vessels to assist the AFP in future resupply missions.

Apart from their 44-meter offshore patrol vessels, PCG spokesman for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said they can also utilize the Coast Guard’s 97-meter multi-role response vessel to patrol the area or escort vessels resupplying the Sierra Madre.

“The commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, Admiral Artemio Abu, is willing to deploy additional vessels to support the resupply mission,” he said at the same news forum.

Tarriela also urged the public to denounce Filipinos who continue to defend China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea on social media platforms and publications.

Branding these Chinese supporters as unpatriotic and traitors, Tarriela said Filipinos should not hesitate to call them out for the fake news they are peddling.

“I am calling out all Filipinos who go on Facebook, on social media: If you see fake news coming out in your feed, at least care to comment, share the right information,” he said in English and Filipino.


Meanwhile, Senators Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada have cautioned against banning Chinese products and investments in the Philippines – as proposed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri – saying the country stands to lose more in terms of trade.

In separate interviews with radio dwIZ yesterday, Escudero and Estrada urged Filipinos not to take drastic action in retaliation for China’s bullying, saying it might do more harm than good.

“I think we should slow down on that call,” Estrada said.

Escudero, for his part, said cancelling contracts with China could result in the Philippines incurring penalties, citing the P300-million fine slapped on the Philippines for calling off the North Rail contract during the second Aquino administration.

He also pointed out that 33 percent of the country’s imports come from China, while 16 percent of Philippine exports are bound for China.

Meanwhile, less than one percent of China’s imports are from the Philippines, and less than two percent of their exports are bound for the Philippines, he added.

“In our desire to fight for our principles and beliefs, we should look at the numbers first, because we might end up shooting ourselves in the foot,” Escudero said.

Zubiri’s call came in the wake of the CCG’s water cannon attack on a resupply vessel in Ayungin Shoal.

The Senate President on Friday claimed to have been assured by the Department of Transportation that it would no longer deal with Chinese firms for its railway, airport and other big-ticket projects. The PCG is an attached agency of the DOTr.

There is no confirmation yet from the DOTr on the senator’s claim.

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