West Philippine Sea

Philippines files protest vs China over ‘aggressive’ acts in Ayungin resupply

Bea Cupin

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Philippines files protest vs China over ‘aggressive’ acts in Ayungin resupply

CHINESE HARASSMENT. The China Coast Guard brandishes weapons, uses sirens, and threatens Filipino soldiers already moored alongside the BRP Sierra Madre during a June 17, 2024 resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.

Armed Forces of the Philippines

The Philippines' defense chief described Chinese actions on June 17 as an 'aggressive and illegal use of force'

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines filed a protest over China’s disruption of a June 17 resupply mission to a military outpost in the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo told reporters Wednesday, June 26.

Manalo said that a note verbale had been sent by the Philippines.

Philippines files protest vs China over ‘aggressive’ acts in Ayungin resupply

“We have already sent a note verbale,” Manalo told reporters on the sidelines of the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Manila.

He did not say when it was filed, or what the diplomatic note contained. Rappler learned that the Philippines made démarches after the June 17 incident, both in Manila and in Bejing. A démarche is a petition or protest presented through diplomatic channels.

The DFA, which is tasked with filing official diplomatic protests, has yet to receive from responsible agencies official reports of the June 17 incident, Rappler learned.

Over a week ago, the China Coast Guard (CCG) stopped a Philippine military rotation and resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. One soldier lost his right thumb during the melee, which happened right below the still-commissioned Navy warship, where two Navy rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) were already moored.

Video clips from the Philippine military showed CCG personnel brandishing bladed weapons, using sirens, hitting, and trying to tow away Philippine Navy RHIBs during the mission. Seaman First Class Underwater Operator Jeffrey Facundo, a Naval Special Operations Command (NAVSOCOM or NAVSOG) soldier, who lost his right thumb when the Chinese rammed one of their vessels at high speed, said the Chinese harassment persisted hours after the initial disturbance, as the CCG initially blocked his medical evacuation.

The Philippines, through Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, the chair of the National Maritime Council, initially described the June 17 incident as “probably a misunderstanding, or an accident.” Manila has since walked back on that description, with Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro now calling the incident a “aggressive and illegal use of force” and “deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission.”

The BRP Sierra Madre is a warship that was purposefully run aground in 1999, in response to China’s expansion in nearby Mischief Reef. It has since become a flashpoint for tensions in the West Philippine Sea, or part of the South China Sea that includes the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China claims a huge part of the South China Sea as its own, despite a 2016 Arbitral Ruling that affirmed the Philippines’ EEZ. Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal is a feature located just over 100 nautical miles away from mainland Palawan, which means it is well within the Philippine EEZ. – Rappler.com

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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.