PCG reports biggest swarm of Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
PCG reports biggest swarm of Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal
Media personnel film a presentation of the five Philippine rigid-hauled inflatable boats being shadowed by China Coast Guard ships during the press conference about the recent resupply mission at the Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed South China Sea, at a hotel in Manila on November 11, 2023. The Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard on Nov. 10, 2023 of "dangerous harassment" of Filipino boats in the disputed South China Sea, including firing a water cannon and blocking vessels on a resupply mission.
AFP / Jam Sta Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard on Saturday said it detected the largest number of Chinese ships to swarm the vicinity of Ayungin shoal — 38 in total — during its latest resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre.

Of the 38 ships, most or 28 were Chinese militia vessels, while there were five China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels and five People’s Liberation Army vessels, PCG Spokesperson Jay Tarriela said during a media briefing.

“I think it is fair to say that this is the highest number because there were 38 documented," Tarriela said.

On November 10, Chinese vessels fired a water cannon anew at a Philippine supply vessel boat carrying provisions for troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre in an "illegal though unsuccessful attempt to force (it) to alter course," the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement.

Supply vessels Unaizah Mae 1 and M/L Kalayaan were also subjected to "extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity" by CCG rigid-hulled inflatable boats on their way to BRP Sierra Madre — actions that Chinese boats have done before.

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Both vessel boats were able to complete their resupply missions.

Most of the Chinese vessels observed in the vicinity did not participate in the blocking operations. Of the 38 vessels, six Chinese militia vessels and all five CCG boats attempted to disrupt the resupply mission, Tarriela said.

"All in all, there were 11 who actively participated in carrying out dangerous maneuvers to the PCG vessels and also to the resupply boats," the PCG spokesperson said.

The task force said that the Philippine Embassy in Beijing has protested the incidents before the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Several Filipino troops, which depend on resupply missions to receive provisions, are stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, which was grounded by the Philippine Navy at Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to counter China's expansive claims in the region.

Based on the 2016 arbitral ruling and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Ayungin Shoal is located inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. It is approximately 200 kilometers away from Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China's Hainan Island.

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