In a recent incident that has sparked outrage and concern, a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel with bow number “4203” fired water cannons and engaged in dangerous maneuvers against two Philippine vessels carrying supplies to military troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, located in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The mission, conducted jointly by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), aimed to rotate and reprovision troops onboard the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as their military outpost.

According to Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, the actions of the CCG vessel were a clear violation of international law and called upon the China Coast Guard to respect the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, while refraining from hampering freedom of navigation in the region. Tarriela cited several international agreements, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), and the 2016 Arbitral Award, which invalidated China’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Colonel Medel Aguilar, AFP spokesperson, echoed Tarriela’s sentiment and strongly condemned the CCG’s “excessive” and “unlawful” actions against Philippine vessels near Ayungin Shoal. He emphasized the need for prudence and responsibility on the part of the China Coast Guard to avoid miscalculations and accidents that could endanger lives.

This is not the first aggressive incident involving the CCG and Philippine vessels near Ayungin Shoal. In a similar incident on June 30, 11 Chinese vessels, including CCG 4203, attempted to stop two PCG ships from reaching Ayungin Shoal for a rotation and reprovision mission.

The recent incident has elicited frustration from netizens towards China, particularly in light of its previous proposal for a joint military exercise with the AFP in the WPS. Some netizens expressed hope that this latest clash would put an end to any consideration of such a joint military exercise. Others emphasized the need for the Philippine government to take a strong stance against China’s aggressive actions to prevent further grave repercussions in the future.

As of now, the AFP has not yet commented on whether the incident will impact China’s proposal for joint military drills with the Philippine military.

Image source: Daily Tribune (Official FB Page)

The clash at Ayungin Shoal underscores the ongoing tensions in the WPS and raises concerns about the safety and security of Philippine vessels operating in the area. It also highlights the importance of upholding international laws and agreements to ensure peaceful coexistence and stability in the region. The Philippine government’s response and the international community’s attention to this incident will be crucial in determining the future dynamics in the contested waters.