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Resupply missions in West Philippine Sea to continue – AFP

MANILA, Philippines, March 12 ----- Amid continuing harassment by China, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the military will continue to carry out rotation and reprovisioning (RORE) missions to the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal.

AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla stressed that – since the AFP strongly asserts the legitimacy of its operations within the West Philippine Sea (WPS), and guided by international rules-based order and international law – “any challenges that we will be facing will be addressed with utmost professionalism.” “However, let it be clear that the AFP is fully prepared to defend ourselves and the lives of our members if necessary. These RORE missions of ours are for morale and welfare,” Padilla said. “We are there to support the troops that are deployed in these territorial waters, so we will not be deterred. The AFP will be continuing with these missions to see to the welfare of our troops in our territorial waters,” she added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday summoned Chinese embassy deputy chief of mission Zhou Zhiyong to protest the aggressive actions by China Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia personnel against a routine resupply mission for Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal that injured four Filipino crew members. DFA Deputy Assistant Secretary Raphael Hermoso summoned the Chinese envoy and conveyed the Philippines’ protest. During the meeting, the Philippines stressed, among others, that China’s interference with the Philippines’ routine and lawful activities in its own exclusive economic zone or EEZ is unacceptable. The DFA said “China’s actions in Ayungin Shoal infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”

The Philippines demanded that Chinese vessels leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately. Ayungin Shoal is a low-tide elevation within the Philippines’ EEZ and continental shelf. In accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award, it cannot be appropriated for sovereignty claims. CCG and maritime militia vessels harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons and executed dangerous maneuvers in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine RORE mission to BRP Sierra Madre.

One CCG vessel caused a collision with a Philippine vessel due to its dangerous blocking maneuvers. CCG vessels used water cannons that shattered the windshield and injured four personnel on board. The adoption and implementation of a Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC) will ensure the safety, security and well-being of Filipino troops deployed in the WPS, the AFP said yesterday.

Padilla said the policy is not aimed at a particular country. “Our actions are not meant to escalate tensions, but rather we want to ensure the safety, security and well-being of our military forces in the West Philippine Sea. To our fisherfolk, the Coast Guard and BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) are there for you; and we (AFP) are here supporting them in law enforcement operations,” she said in an interview on dzBB. She explained that it is necessary for the Philippines, composed of several islands, to enhance its defense posture in terms of the territorial waters surrounding the archipelagic country.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said the Department of National Defense (DND) and AFP have embarked on the implementation of the CADC. “In plain language, we are developing our capability to protect and secure our entire territory and Exclusive Economic Zone in order to ensure that our people and all the generations of Filipinos to come shall freely reap and enjoy the boundaries of the natural resources that are rightfully ours within our domain,” Teodoro said in a statement.

The secretary emphasized that the CADC is a strategic action and will not need constant directives to carry out. He urged AFP commanders and units to exert all efforts to operationalize it. Padilla noted that the military exercise with the US and Australia are also not aimed at any country, but based on agreements.

The Marcos administration needs to beef up its military might by allocating more funds to the DND and modernizing the AFP following the escalation of tensions with China over the WPS, a congressman said. “It’s about time that the government recalibrates the allocation of funds to include the necessary resources to protect our WPS,” Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, chairman of the special House committee on the West Philippine Sea, said. “It’s about time when we do the budget, the national government includes this as a major concern. Not only education, not only health, but also the protection of what is supposed to be ours,” the lone Mandaluyong City congressman added, noting the importance of more patrol boats and fighter jets.

Gonzales, a House deputy majority leader, underscored the importance of planning ahead for the upcoming budget cycle, noting the Department of Budget and Management will soon issue a budget call for 2025, which will be shortly after Marcos’ third State of the Nation Address on July 22. 



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