Unaizah May 4 prepares for departure from Naval Detachment Oyster Bay in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on March 22 to embark on its rotation and reprovisioning mission at BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. (Photo from the Armed Forces of the Philippines)

In a rare announcement made today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines disclosed plans for a rotation and resupply (RoRe) mission at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, utilizing the civilian boat Unaizah May 4.

The military said the boat set sail yesterday, March 22, to the WPS to continue its mission to sustain military personnel stationed at BRP Sierra Madre.

The boat, one of two engaged in the RoRe on March 5, was unable to fulfill its task due to damage sustained from water cannoning by the China Coast Guard (CCG).

“Unaizah May 4 (UM4), a civilian vessel contracted to conduct a rotation and resupply operation at Ayungin Shoal, embarked again to complete its mission to sustain Philippine troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stated.

For support of the mission, the Area Task Force West assigned two Philippine Navy ships, along with two more from the Philippine Coast Guard, to act as escorts for UM4.

The AFP stressed that the mission is a regular operation intended to support and rotate military personnel stationed at Ayungin Shoal.

It said the purpose of the mission is to guarantee that BRP Sierra Madre retains a complete troop presence following the evacuation of a soldier requiring urgent medical attention.

Meanwhile, Ray Powell, SeaLight Director at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, stated on his X (formerly Twitter) that China seems prepared for the arrival of UM4 and its Philippine vessel escorts, as it already has 10 maritime militia ships near Ayungin.

“Team AFP leans into transparency, for the first time announcing its resupply mission to 2nd Thomas Shoal in advance. Unfortunately, China appears to be leaning into its blockade, with 10 maritime militia ships already positioning near the shoal to harass the mission,” Powell stated.

After receiving a water cannon barrage from two CCG ships on March 5, UM4’s windshields broke. Four of its crew members were injured, leading to the mission to Ayungin being aborted.