ON BOARD BRP SINDANGAN
By JOSEPH MORONG, GMA Integrated News
A China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel nearly collided with a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship escorting a civilian resupply vessel near Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Wednesday afternoon.
CCG vessel 21156 had successfully peeled off resupply ship Unaizai May 1 from its escort, BRP Sindangan. The Philippine ships were on their way to Ayungin Shoal to deliver supplies to personnel manning BRP Sierra Madre. Another resupply ship, Unaiza May 2, was escorted by another PCG vessel, BRP Cabra.
The CCG vessel attempted several times to block BRP Sindangan from going anywhere near Ayungin Shoal when it was still some 10 nautical miles away.
Despite heavy blockade from at least three CCG vessels and several Chinese militia vessels, the two resupply ships reached Ayungin Shoal around 1 p.m.
While waiting for the resupply ships to return, BRP Sindangan attempted to move closer to them. CCG vessel 21156 then attempted to cut BRP Sindangan’s path, coming dangerously close, its hull more or less just three meters away from Sindangan’s bow. However, it appeared to have turned off its engine.
A screenshot shows the hull of China Coast Guard vessel 21156 coming as close as three meters away from the bow of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Sindangan. The Chinese ship tried to block the Pcg vessel from coming close to the civilian ships delivering supplies to personnel manning BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on Wednesday, October 4, 2023. JOSEPH MORONG
After a while, the two ships moved away from each other. But then two Chinese militia vessels came toward the direction of BRP Sindangan and sailed just in front of it.
Nearby, BRP Cabra weas surrounded by a CCG ship and at least three Chinese militia vessels. Above, an unidentified aircraft, as well as one from the Philippine Navy, hovered.
Chinse navy warship 630, meanwhile, came as close as 800 meters away behind BRP Sindangan, the closest it got since shadowing previous resupply missions.
The two resupply ships were able to successfully complete the mission at 5 p.m. Afterward, they met with PCG vessels before going back to Sabina Shoal where they would safely travel to Ulugan Bay in Palawan.
This latest resupply mission was the third successful mission by the Philippines after China used water cannon on a resupply ship on August 5.
The PCG maintained that the activity was in furtherance of the Philippine government’s administrative functions over the West Philippine Sea. It had urged the Chinese side not to block the mission based on radio challenges between the two parties showed.
“To China Coast Guard 4301, this is Philippine Coast Guard … conducting lawful maritime patrol within the Philippine exclusive economic zone in accordance with the international law and Philippine national laws. We are proceeding according to our plans, request to stay clear from our passage,” BRP Sindangan told the surrounding Chinese ships.
The Chinese side in response to radio challenges said it allowed the delivery of food and supplies for humanitarian reasons, a claim it had used in a previous successful Philippine mission by the Philippines in August.
“In the spirit of humanism, we will only (inaudible) your vessel carrying food and other (inaudible) living materials and rotating personnel to the illegally (inaudible) vessel, you are … permitted to enter,” the radio communication from the Chinese ship said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that the Philippines did not make an arrangement with the CCG since Ayungin Shoal is located within the Philippines’ EEZ. —KBK, GMA Integrated News