The interrupted resupply mission for the military personnel stationed at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is expected to be smooth-sailing when it resumes this week, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured Sunday, Nov. 21.
Lorenzana said he already talked to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian about the incident last Nov. 16 where three China Coast Guard vessels blocked and blasted water cannon on two supply boats which were en route to Ayungin Shoal to bring food to the troops.
“The Chinese will not interfere per my conversation with the Chinese Ambassador,” Lorenzana said.
The Defense Chief was in constant communication with the Chinese envoy since the incident happened to express the intent of the military to continue the resupply mission for the Filipino troops.
“We have been talking everyday since the evening of the 16th while the incident was happening until yesterday (Nov. 20). We will see if they are true to their words as our Navy will proceed with the resupply this week,” he said.
The military is now repairing the supply boat that was damaged due to the water cannon blasting.
Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez, commander of the Western Command (WesCom), said they were already fixing the outrigger of the wooden-hulled boat that was destroyed by the strong current of water from the China Coast Guard’s vessels.
“Once it is fixed, it will undergo a sea trial. If the results are satisfactory, then we will proceed with the mission immediately,” he said.
Just like the previous mission, the supply boats will not be escorted by the Philippine Navy or Philippine Coast Guard despite the risks of getting harassed again by the bigger Chinese vessels.
“Of course, the fear is still there. We are hoping that our colleagues in Manila have done their part in talking with their Chinese counterparts. But as for our team, we will still do our job,” Enriquez said.
Instead of larger Navy ships, the military only uses wooden hulled boats to bring the supplies to the stationed troops since Ayungin Shoal is just a shallow atoll and big vessels will easily ground on it.