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Philippines to sustain non-military approach in Ayungin missions


MANILA, Philippines, November 14 ------ The Philippine government would continue with its non-military approach to the resupply missions for troops on a grounded military ship on Ayungin Shoal, an official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said. The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, headed by National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, “believes it is better we use supply boats and not Navy or Coast Guard vessels,” said PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela, who is tasked to speak on issues related to disputes in the WPS. “We do not want to escalate the tension and provoke anybody, whether China or other claimant states,” Tarriela said in an interview over ANC. Also, the Philippines wants to prove that its conduct of maritime missions in WPS is “aligned with the regional norm of not militarizing the dispute,” he added.


Tarriela said the PCG and journalists who joined the latest mission spotted at least 38 vessels from China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia. There were five CCG vessels, five ships from the People’s Liberation Army-Navy and the remaining 28 from the maritime militia, he noted. Some of the ships performed “dangerous maneuvers,” while one CCG vessel blasted its water cannon towards M/L Kalayaan that carried supplies to soldiers onboard the BRP Sierra Madre last weekend.


According to Tarriela, the water cannon, which could release water at high pressure, could have “collapsed” the wooden boat, but the latter managed to evade it. He added that water cannons – also installed on the PCG’s two 97-meter patrol vessels BRP Melchora Aquino, which joined the latest resupply mission, and BRP Teresa Magbanua – should only be used for firefighting operations at sea. Col. Medel Aguilar, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said that despite the increased presence of Chinese vessels in the vicinity of Ayungin, the AFP would continue and “no one can stop” its resupply missions to the soldiers stationed at the Sierra Madre. He added that the Philippines would continue to assert its rights over its territorial waters based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award that invalidated China’s vast maritime claims in the South China Sea.


Aguilar, in reaction to PCG reports of increased number of Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal, said this behavior seeks to stop the Philippines from carrying out its resupply missions. However, he stressed that the AFP would continue and will do everything “legal and peaceful” in addressing these hostile activities. He added that the military is thankful for the support expressed by countries like the US and the members of the European Union because “what we are doing actually is not just the promotion of our national interest, but the promotion of a rules-based international order which means that we are just implementing international conventions and we are strictly following it.”


Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Senate committee on national defense chair, joined the call for the Department of Foreign Affairs to recall the Philippine ambassador to China to explain the course of action in seeking redress for the persistent challenges in WPS. “Given the recurring acts of aggression against our countrymen in the West Philippine Sea, I urge Department of Foreign Affairs Sec. Enrique Manalo to direct our ambassador to China to return to the country for consultation on the course of action in seeking redress for the persistent challenges we face in the WPS,” Estrada said.


Source: philstar.com


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