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Ayungin resupply successful despite Chinese maneuvers

Ghio Ong, Michael Punongbayan, Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Ayungin resupply successful despite Chinese maneuvers
Screen grab from a Philippine Coast Guard video shows a PCG vessel (highlighted) being subjected to dangerous maneuvers by China coast guard and militia vessels as it assisted a resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino supply vessels were able to evade “dangerous maneuvers” by Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels to deliver provisions to troops on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal yesterday.

It was the second successful resupply mission for the Sierra Madre since the Aug. 5 incident when a Chinese coast guard ship drove away with water cannon a Filipino boat carrying food and provisions for Marines stationed on the outpost.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) announced the success of the resupply mission carried out by the Western Command with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

“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 task force said in a statement. The task force did not reveal details of the resupply mission.

“We reiterate and reemphasize that these operations are pursuant to our government’s legitimate exercise of its administrative functions and jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea, firmly anchored on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award,” the NTF-WPS stressed.

The task force said it “strongly deplores and condemns the continued illegal, aggressive and destabilizing conduct of the CCG and the CMM within our nation’s EEZ.”

“We reiterate what President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said during the recently concluded 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 on international law.’ We call on all to do their part in ensuring a peaceful and rules-based international order in the oceans,” the NTF-WPS said. The Sierra Madre, a World War II era transport ship, was deliberately beached on the shoal in 1993 to serve as outpost for a handful of soldiers guarding Philippine waters.

AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar denounced the CCG’s attempt to stop the resupply operation.

“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,” Aguilar declared.

‘Firm resolve’

Aguilar said the resupply “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.”

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Filipinos should remain cautious and vigilant as China’s acts of intimidation continue.

“Despite these recent successes, we know that China continues to block our vessels in our waters, so we remain absolutely cautious and vigilant,” Zubiri said.

He voiced the Senate’s commitment to support the AFP and the PCG though sufficient budget allocations.

“We in the Senate are prepared to assist our 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,” he said.

“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 food,” he noted.

“As long as the law and truth are on our side, illegal barriers to what is ours will continue to be pierced by the sharp tip of world opinion that upholds our cause as just,” Zubiri Said.

Sweden offers jets

Meanwhile, Swedish Ambassador Annika Thunborg met with AFP Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday to discuss the prospect of the Philippines’ acquiring Saab JAS-39 Gripen multi-role fighter jets from Sweden.

“(Brawner) and Ambassador Thunborg discussed the acquisition of multi-role fighters and the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Enrico Gil Ileto, said.

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