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12 Chinese vessels block PH resupply mission anew in Ayungin Shoal

12 Chinese vessels block PH resupply mission anew in Ayungin Shoal

(UPDATE) BOATS resupplying Philippine troops on Ayungin Shoal completed their mission Friday, but not before they were harassed by a swarm of Chinese coast guard and militia vessels, an American security analyst reported.

Two China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and 10 Chinese maritime militia vessels were monitored at 5 a.m. several kilometers off Ayungin Shoal, massing apparently to block the approaching Philippine boats on a third mission in five weeks to bring provisions to the troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine Navy ship, which had been deliberately beached on the shoal, according to Ray Powell, project lead for Project Myoushu at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation.

This Screengrab from PCG video shows a Chinese Coastguard ship blocks the path of a Philippine Coast Guard ship

This Screengrab from PCG video shows a Chinese Coastguard ship blocks the path of a Philippine Coast Guard ship

This Screengrab from PCG video shows a Chinese Coastguard ship blocks the path of a Philippine Coast Guard ship

Powell said one Chinese cargo ship was also detected in the area through its automatic identification system (AIS), its purpose “unclear.” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar confirmed that the mission to Ayungin was successfully carried out, despite an attempt by the CCG to derail it.

Aguilar said one of the blockading Chinese vessels was disabled after its propellers plowed through a coral reef in a shallow portion of the shoal.

Another Chinese vessel attempted to assist the stuck ship, but it damaged its hull after hitting what could be an outcrop of rocks.

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Forced to proceed at a slower speed, the ship could not stop the resupply boats from entering Ayungin Shoal. Powell said that based on China’s own AIS-tracking site, aside from the eight militia ships, two smaller militia vessels were positioned to block the entrance to Ayungin.

China’s AIS-tracking site also showed the presence of the smaller CCG vessel 21551, east of Ayungin.

“This suggests its prior companion CCG 21556 may also be in the area, as both were involved in the last blockade on August 22.

By 8 a.m., CCGS 5305 and 21551 and 10 militia ships had formed a blocking force as the resupply boats, escorted by the Philippine Navy’s BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan, were within 35 kilometers of Ayungin.

Almost an hour later, the Cabra and Sindangan were surrounded by the CCG vessels and at least four militia ships, 18 kilometers from the shoal.

“Both ships (Cabra and Sindangan) have since turned back to the east — escort mission possibly complete?” said Powell, a 2021 Fellow at Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute.

He said previous resupply missions encountered “dark” CCG ships, meaning the vessels had their AIS turned off.

“Unclear if dark ships present today, but forward deployment of so many militia ships suggests fewer CCG than before,” said Powell.

He said China has tried to prevent supplies from reaching the Sierra Madre for years to prevent the Philippines from repairing the ship “until it eventually breaks up and must be abandoned.” “At that point, China plans to take full control of 2nd Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal. The time bomb of the Philippines’ BRP Sierra Madre is ticking down to zero,” said Powell, who is also the director of SeaLight, a website dedicated to monitoring developments in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

He said the blockade of Ayungin was “illegal” and “an outrage.” CCG and Chinese maritime militia vessels tried to block and harass the two resupply missions in August.

On August 5, a resupply mission was aborted after a CCG vessel fired a water cannon at one of the boats bringing provisions to Ayungin.

In a statement on Friday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the successful mission 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.” “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,” AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said.

“We express our deep appreciation to the guidance of the [National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea] and the ever-reliable support of the Philippine Coast Guard in accomplishing this mission. With the strong support of our people, we will succeed,” he added.

The CCG said it had warned the Philippine resupply vessels on Friday “in accordance with the law.” According to a CCG spokesman, CCG vessels “tracked and monitored” the vessels all the way to their destination and “effectively regulated them.” It further said that it will continue to conduct law enforcement activities in the seas under China’s jurisdiction.

It maintained that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands — which is what the Chinese call the Spratly Islands — including the Ren’ai Reef (Ayungin Shoal), and adjacent waters, and firmly opposes the illegal transportation of construction materials by the Philippines to the illegal grounded warship.

Also on Friday, Sweden’s Ambassador Annika Thunborg vowed to support the country’s efforts in protecting its territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Thunborg paid a courtesy call to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and discussed matters related to the WPS issue.

AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Lt. Col. Enrico Gil Ileto said the ambassador assured that Sweden “stands firmly behind the Philippines in the protection of its territory and territorial integrity as well as the international rules-based order and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” Ileto said. Brawner and Thunborg also talked about the planned acquisition by the Philippines of multi-role fighter (MRF) planes under the revised AFP Modernization Program.

The European Union has also committed to deepening defense relations in light of recent developments in the South China Sea.

EU Ambassador Luc Veron recently visited the office of Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. and lauded the Philippines efforts in upholding international law and the rules-based international order.

They also underscored the threat of climate change, especially in their disaster risk reduction and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts. Teodoro said the European bloc has always supported the Philippines’ disaster preparedness efforts, especially in setting up early warning systems (EWS). Veron also affirmed the EU’s commitment to support peace, development, and institution-building initiatives in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

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