The latest resupply mission conducted by the Western Command (WESCOM) to its remote outpost, the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, proceeded successfully on Wednesday without any provocation from Chinese vessels present in the vicinity.
Authorities said the civilian commercial vessels commissioned to deliver the supplies to the troops noted the presence of two China Coast Guard (CCG) boats and five other militia vessels in the area. In the past, the Chinese had stopped and threatened the supply boats, but this time they were able to move forward without any problems.
The resupply mission is a regular activity of WESCOM’s Joint Task Force West under the Naval Forces West (MAVFORWEST), headed by Captain Alan M. Javier, to deliver food supplies, water, and medicine, as well as maintenance and repair equipment needed by the personnel aboard BRP Sierra Madre, which was intentionally ran aground on the shoal to serve as a military garrison in the area.
WESCOM stated that this was the third consecutive resupply mission conducted by Philippine Navy-contracted commercial boats in Ayungin Shoal using its usual entry and exit points without any government escort that went off without a hitch.
Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of WESCOM, said the unescorted mission was conducted on purpose with the aim of sustaining the high morale of troops in the area and maintaining trust and diplomatic relations with other claimant countries in the WPS, particularly with China.
“The absence of Philippine government escort vessels was deliberate. We are exhausting all available means to peacefully co-exist until all WPS issues are finally resolved,” Carlos said.
“Our current thrust is part of the trust-building efforts we are undertaking in response to the guidance of the president to exhaust all means to resolve the issues in the West Philippine Sea. Hence, continuing dialogue with Chinese authorities is one such approach,” he added.
WESCOM further stated that the mission is part of the continuing and deliberate actions of Area Task Force West and WESCOM to send a clear message that the Philippine Government will continue to sustain peacefully co-existing with China in the contested waters.
“Today’s successful operations only show that if we continue to engage our neighbors in peaceful and constructive dialogues, we will understand each other better. We look forward to more interaction with China as our two governments seek a peaceful resolution to this regional impasse,” Carlos stated.
While the unescorted resupply mission was taking place, however, the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Malapascua (MRRV 4403) was also conducting a seaborne patrol operation in the WPS.
The development also came with a recent report of new Chinese incursions that made Sangguniang Panlalawigan pass a resolution calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of National Defense to once again take necessary steps.