West Philippine Sea

China blames ‘deliberate’ actions by Philippines boats for Ayungin collision

Bea Cupin

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China blames ‘deliberate’ actions by Philippines boats for Ayungin collision

A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Ayungin Shoal, on March 29, 2014.

Erik De Castro/Reuters

(3rd UPDATE) The Philippines and China trade allegations of how a collision occurred near the Ayungin Shoal

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines said on Sunday, October 22, that “dangerous blocking maneuvers” of a China Coast Guard Vessel “caused it to collide” with a boat the Philippine military contracted for a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, its outpost in Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal. China’s coast guard meanwhile refuted Philippine assertions, saying actions made “deliberately” by Philippine boats caused the collision.

China blames ‘deliberate’ actions by Philippines boats for Ayungin collision

In a statement, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said the “provocative, irresponsible, and illegal action” of the China Coast Guard ship “imperiled the safety of the crew” of the Unaiza May 2.

The Unaiza May 2 is a small “indigenous resupply boat” that the military uses when bringing much-needed provisions and supplies to a small team of Marines stationed at BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded World War 2 battleship. 

China had earlier claimed it “lawfully” blocked Philippine vessels transporting “illegal construction materials” to Ayungin. 

Meanwhile, MaryKay Carlson, US Ambassador to the Philippines, said in a statement on X that the UNited States “condemns PRC’s latest disruption of a legal Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, putting the lives of Filipino service members at risk.”

The incident near Ayungin Shoal

The incident purportedly happened at around 6:04 am on Sunday during a routine resupply mission. 

In the same mission, a Chinese Maritime Militia vessel reportedly hit the port side of the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Cabra while it was lying some 6.4 nautical miles northeast of Ayungin Shoal. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is typically tasked to escort the two Unaiza Mays during resupply missions. 

“The RORE mission is still ongoing, with Unaiza May 1 (UM1) reaching BRP Sierra Madre to successfully resupply our troops and personnel stationed there,” said the task force, which is composed of several government agencies, including the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

“Relevant authorities are briefed of the incident and developments in the ongoing RORE mission,” said the task force. 

China’s coast guard said in a statement, “the Philippine vessels trespassed into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Reef in China’s Nansha Islands without permission” and “ignored China’s repeated warnings.”

China’s coast guard said that at 8:13 am, “the Philippine vessel 4409 began to astern deliberately, leading to collision of the stern of its vessel into the starboard of China’s static floating Qiong Sansha Yu 00003. The move was to make faults with China and escalate the current situation.”

“The Philippines’ action seriously violated the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and threatened the navigation safety of the Chinese vessels. The operation of Chinese side was professional, legitimate and lawful and the responsibility lay entirely with the Philippine side,” China’s coast guard added.

Routine

China’s harassment and attempts to block these resupply missions have become almost routine, based on statements the Philippines has released after these missions. In early August, the China Coast Guard used water cannons against the Philippine ships out on a resupply mission. That mission was not completed. Weeks later, China still harassed Philippine ships during a successful resupply mission. 

Back in February, just weeks after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. went on a state visit to Beijing, the China Coast Guard used a military-grade laser against the Philippine Coast Guard during a resupply mission to Ayungin. 

The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests – a handful of them, announced to the public – as a result of these incidents. 

Resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre are crucial. The World War 2 battleship is in dire straits after decades out at sea. Soldiers stationed there also need basic supplies – food and water, among them. 

The AFP earlier said improving the condition of the BRP Sierra Madre was on top of its wishlist. 

China claims most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, as its own even if a 2016 Arbitral Tribunal said the claim had no legal basis. – Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    It is time that President Marcos Jr. decides to make the Philippine Navy our “first choice” when it comes to the West Philippine Sea. Otherwise, these “dangerous blocking maneuvers” of the China Coast Guard will go on indefinitely. But, first, he has to change his policy of “friend to all, enemy to none” to a more realistic one before making this decision.

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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.