West Philippine Sea

IN PHOTOS: AFP chief Brawner visits the BRP Sierra Madre

Bea Cupin

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IN PHOTOS: AFP chief Brawner visits the BRP Sierra Madre

The AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo S Brawner Jr sharing lunch with the personnel of the BRP Sierra Madre on December 10, 2023.

AFP

The AFP chief witnesses firsthand harassment from the China Coast Guard

MANILA, Philippines – General Romeo Brawner Jr., Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), witnessed firsthand harassment at the hands of Chinese maritime forces in the West Philippine Sea. Brawner was part of a military resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, over 100 nautical miles off the coast of Palawan.

On Sunday, December 10, Brawner joined a routine resupply mission that was met with harassment – including water cannons – en route to the shoal.

Noong binangga, noong winater cannon kami, mga ilang beses silang dumaan sa harap namin… tapos gusto pa kaming atrasan nung [China Coast Guard], wala talaga,” he said in a media interview on Monday, December 11.

(When we were rammed, water cannoned, they passed in front of us several times. And the China Coast Guard seemed to want to back up against us.)

Adult, Male, Man
The AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo S Brawner Jr aboard BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) on December 10, 2023 in Ayungin Shoal.

Brawner was joined by Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, Commander of the Western Command, as well as other AFP officials during the visit. The top AFP officials shared a meal – an early Noche Buena – with troops stationed on board the BRP Sierra Madre.

The AFP chief first travelled via a Navy vessel before transferring to the Unaizah May 1, one of the military-contracted supply ships to Ayungin Shoal.

The Unaizah May 1, the ML Kalayaan, and even a Philippine Coast Guard vessel that escorted the supply ships were subject to water cannoning from the China Coast Guard. The Kalayaan had to turn back after sustaining engine damage, but the Unaizah May 1, with Brawner on board, made it past China’s harassment and blocking attempts.

According to the AFP, Brawner is the first AFP chief to make it to the Sierra Madre.

Adult, Male, Man
General Romeo S Brawner Jr visits BRP Sierra Madre on December 10, 2023 in Ayungin Shoal.

Brawner said he earlier got clearance from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to make the visit and to join a resupply mission.

A handful of soldiers hold watch at the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting World War II warship which the Philippines ran aground on purpose in 1999 after China put up an outpost in nearby Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef).

It’s become a flashpoint for tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Resupply missions, in particular, have grown more tense, with instances of water cannon firing and collisions at sea. – Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    An appreciation to our FIRST AFP Chief, General Romeo Brawner Jr., who has visited the BRP Sierra Madre. But why did he transfer to Unaizah May 1, one of the military-contracted supply ships to Ayungin Shoal, from a Philippine Navy ship? Secondly, in the picture, he is shown smiling – as if is still okay to be “water cannoned”? Was his behavior reflective of that of the Filipino People especially that of President Marcos Jr.?

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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.