Philippines-China relations

China causes ‘heavy damage’ on Philippine resupply ship in Ayungin Shoal – AFP

Bea Cupin

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

China causes ‘heavy damage’ on Philippine resupply ship in Ayungin Shoal – AFP

WATER CANNON. A China Coast Guard ship uses a water cannon against the Unaizah May 4, a wooden boat contracted by the Philippine military to bring supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, on March 23, 2024.

Screengrab from Armed Forces of the Philippines video

(3rd UPDATE) The Philippine military says a Chinese Maritime Militia boat, with the help of Chinese rigid-hulled inflatable boat, 'deployed and installed floating barriers to prevent further entry of any vessels in the shoal'

MANILA, Philippines – The China Coast Guard (CCG) on Saturday, March 23, used water cannons against a Philippine resupply boat that was en route to the BRP Sierra Madre, a makeshift Philippine military outpost in Ayungin Shoal, the Philippine military said.

The boat, the wooden Unaizah May 4, “sustained heavy damages at around 08:52 due to the continued blasting of water cannons from the CCG vessels,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said in a press statement on Saturday.

China causes ‘heavy damage’ on Philippine resupply ship in Ayungin Shoal – AFP

Videos from the AFP suggest China used water cannons against the much-smaller Unaizah May 4 beginning 7:59 am, during a routine rotation and resupply (RORE) mission to the Sierra Madre, a World War II ship purposefully run aground in 1999 in Ayungin Shoal.

Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal is a feature in the South China Sea that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Before the China Coast Guard started using water cannons on the Unaizah May 4, the PCG’s BRP Cabra, a vessel assigned to escort the supply vessel, was “impeded and encircled” by a China Coast Guard vessel and two Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) ships, the AFP said.

China causes ‘heavy damage’ on Philippine resupply ship in Ayungin Shoal – AFP

The CMM is a fishing fleet that China uses in the West Philippine Sea to augment its coast guard forces.

The AFP said that early as 6:08 am, a China Coast Guard ship had already performed a “dangerous maneuver” by crossing the bow of the Unaizah May 4.

China causes ‘heavy damage’ on Philippine resupply ship in Ayungin Shoal – AFP

An hour later, at around 7:09 am, video from the AFP shows a China Coast Guard ship sailing in reverse in an attempt to block the Unaizah May 4. The AFP said this caused a “near collision.”

While the Unaizah May 4 was unable to continue its mission because of “severe damage” from the direct blast of water cannons, the Philippines was still able to bring personnel and essential cargo to the Sierra Madre. 

The AFP said six Navy personnel and cargo were transferred from the Unaizah May 4 and the BRP Cabra to a rigid-hulled inflatable boat deployed by the BRP Sierra Madre. 

“They arrived and moored at the starboard side of LS57 at 11:59 am,” said the AFP. 

The military also noted that a Chinese Maritime Militia boat, with the help of Chinese rigid-hulled inflatable boat, “deployed and installed floating barriers to prevent further entry of any vessels in the shoal.”

China causes ‘heavy damage’ on Philippine resupply ship in Ayungin Shoal – AFP
Injured crew, ‘hollow claims to peace’

National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement that some personnel were injured and were given medical attention once moved to the Philippine Coast Guard vessel.

“The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) latest acts of unprovoked aggression, coercion, and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine Philippine RoRe mission to Ayungin Shoal, have once again placed at risk, caused severe damage to property, and caused physical harm to Filipinos on board UM4,” the NTF-WPS said.

The NTF-WPS said that “the systematic and consistent manner in which the PRC continues to carry out these illegal and irresponsible actions belies its hollow claims to peace, dialogue, and adherence to international law.”

The NTF-WPS said that National Security Adviser Eduardo Año has requested a meeting on Monday, March 25, with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and the National Security Cluster “for purposes of making recommendations to the President” in relation to the latest incident.

“The actions of the agents of the PRC today in the waters of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) show to the Filipino people, the region, and the world that the PRC recognizes no reasonable or legal restraint nor limitation upon its actions under international law,” the task force said.

“The Philippines will not be deterred – by veiled threats or hostility – from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of our EEZ and continental shelf.  We demand that China demonstrate in deeds and not in words that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” it added.

The NTF-WPS said that the Philippines “shall continue to act peacefully and responsibly, consistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS and the legally binding 2016 Arbitral Award.”

“Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others,” it added.

China defends actions

Gan Yu, a spokesperson for China’s coast guard, said the Philippines broke a promise to remove the grounded vessel and sent two coast guard ships and a supply ship into the Second Thomas Shoal waters, 18 days after the last round of supplies.

China has not said who promised the removal or when that promise was made. The Philippines’ defense ministry, foreign ministry and military leaders have repeatedly said there was no such promise.

On Saturday, Gan said, the Philippines infringed and provoked trouble, and deliberately undermined the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

The Philippine vessels ignored China’s repeated warnings and route controls and forced their way in, he said. The China coast guard implements regulations in accordance with laws, and handles matters in a reasonable, legal, and professional manner, Gan said.

In August 2023, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. refuted China’s claim that the Philippine government had agreed to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, and if any had been made, he was rescinding it.

National Security Council Assistant Director-General Jonathan Malaya had earlier called China’s assertion a “figment of their imagination.” 

The Philippines has sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea – meaning it has the exclusive right to exploit and take care of resources in those areas. But China claims practically all of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, ignoring a 2016 Arbitral Ruling that deemed that claim invalid.

Real-time Philippine updates

For the first time since launching its “transparency initiative” in the West Philippine Sea – an effort to expose Chinese activities in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone – both the Philippine Coast Guard and the AFP released to the media near real-time updates and video of the mission.

Past midnight on March 23, the AFP announced that the Unaizah May 4 was again tapped to “complete its mission to sustain Philippine troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre.” The boat, a civilian ship that the Navy contracts to bring supplies and troops to the Sierra Madre, was subject to the water cannons of two China Coast Guard ships during a mission earlier in March.

The impact from the water cannons shattered the wind shield of the Unaizah May 4, injuring four Navy personnel.

The AFP also announced that two Philippine Navy ships, on top of the usual Philippine Coast Guard vessel, would escort the Unaizah May 4.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines emphasizes that the mission is a routine operation aimed at sustaining and rotating military personnel at Ayungin Shoal. This particular mission was set up to ensure a full troop complement on board BRP Sierra Madre after one personnel needing serious medical attention was recently evacuated. Personnel are being rotated in to ensure that BRP Sierra Madre’s mission posture remains uncompromised,” said the AFP in its statement ahead of the mission.

Foreign governments expressed concern about China’s latest actions in the West Philippine Sea, and reiterated their solidarity with the Philippines. – With a report from Reuters/



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  1. PR

    Dialog is useless when China’s story is the exact opposite as to what we see on video. That type of blatant lying cannot be negotiated with.

  2. ET

    What will the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) recommend to President Marcos Jr. after the March 23, 2024 incident? Another dialog? Until when will dialogs end? Until the CCG water cannon will kill a Philippine Navy personnel?

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.