Personnel of Western Command conducted another resupply mission to troops assigned at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, under shadowing and radio challenges from a China Coast Guard vessel, and several other militia vessels loitering in the vicinity, and this time with warnings not to bring construction materials, saying doing so “will be dealt with.”
“The WESCOM of the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced the completion of another resupply mission on December 17 to troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre, which is grounded in Ayungin Shoal in the WPS,” it said Sunday in a statement.
WESCOM said the successful resupply mission happened even after the China Coast Guard (CCG) issued radio challenges, claiming that the Philippines’ resupply vessel is within “the People’s Republic of China’s jurisdiction,” but are allowing food supplies to be delivered.
The first warning was given in April after Chinese militia vessels deployed rubber boats to block the entrance to Ayungin Shoal with nets and ropes and issue repeated warnings against bringing construction materials.
The CCG, militia boats and rubber boats continued to patrol the area even after the nets were taken down in May.
On the other hand, according to WESCOM, the Philippine supply boats responded to the radio challenge appropriately and continued on their intended course.
Meanwhile, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, commander of WESCOM, stated that the mission team “never requested permission to conduct resupply and other maritime operations in our territory and EEZ.”
He also reiterated the significance of the BRP Sierra Madre serving as the nearest Philippine outpost to China’s military garrison on Mischief Reef.
“The Mischief garrison is in our country’s exclusive economic zone and is China’s closest military facility to Palawan. That is why resupply missions are critical in maintaining our presence in Ayungin,” Carlos said.
“Whatever differences we have with China, in this particular case their position on bringing construction materials during LS57 resupply mission, we intend to address through continuing dialogue and diplomacy,” he added.
The recent resupply mission is the 11th conducted by WESCOM this year.