MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is urging the China Coast Guard (CCG) to avoid any disruption during the upcoming resupply mission to the troops stationed at Ayungin Shoal aboard the BRP Sierra Madre.
Only the first half of the resupply mission has been completed while the next phase is scheduled for the following two weeks, according to AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar in a news forum in Quezon City on Saturday.
If China Coast Guard ignores the call, Aguilar said, “We will watch how things unfold.”
The first attempt was interrupted when CCG vessels used water cannons against Philippine Coast Guard ships escorting boats on a mission to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre near Ayungin Shoal on August 5.
Aguilar said that despite the events on August 5, the AFP is “duty-bound to ensure the well-being of its personnel on the BRP Sierra Madre.”
“We are, therefore, committed to the conduct of another RoRe (rotation and resupply) mission for our personnel and to maintain our presence in Ayungin Shoal. This exercise of our sovereign rights and jurisdiction is a testament to our firm belief in the rules-based international order that underpins regional peace and stability,” he said.
While promoting peaceful solutions to conflicts, Aguilar stressed the resolve to protect the country’s maritime rights.
“We, therefore, call on all relevant parties to abide by their obligations under international law and respect the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over its maritime zones,” the AFP spokesperson said.
“Ayungin Shoal holds a strategic importance for the Philippines and a fishing ground for our fishermen. Beyond its practical purpose, the RoRe mission to the shoal is a clear demonstration of our resolve to stand up against threats and coercion, and our commitment in upholding the rule of law,” he added.
The Ayungin Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands, is situated within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, underlining the country’s sovereignty.
The BRP Sierra Madre, a rusty World War II-era ship was intentionally grounded by the Philippine Navy at Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, in 1999. It serves as the country’s outpost in the West Philippine Sea.
The handful of Filipino marines stationed on the crumbling ship to assert the Philippines’ territorial claims depend upon resupply missions to survive their remote posting.
Since 2020, the government has lodged 445 diplomatic protests against China’s presence and actions in the West Philippine Sea, with 35 of them being filed this year.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, and has ignored a 2016 international court ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.
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