Amid concerns of another possible “harassment” from Chinese vessels, the supply boats that will bring food and other necessary items to troops stationed at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) sailed again on Monday morning, Nov. 22.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two supply boats, “Unaiza Mae 1” and “Unaiza Mae 3,” left Oyster Bay in Palawan and will reach the rusty and dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre that serves as the troops’ temporary barracks on Tuesday morning.
These were the same wooden-hulled boats that were blocked and blasted with water cannon by three Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels last Nov. 16 while en route to Ayungin Shoal. The boats were already repaired after being damaged due to the incident.
“Chinese Ambassador [Huang Xilian] assured me they [supply boats] will not be impeded. Pero pakiusap nila walang escort (But they requested not to bring any escort),” Lorenzana said.
Since the supply boats were not escorted by the Philippine Navy, Lorenzana said he was banking on the word of the Chinese envoy that they will not block the Philippine vessels.
“We will see,” he said.
Nonetheless, Lorenzana said the military would be in constant communication with the boats to monitor the mission and ensure the safety of those onboard that would bring in the supplies.
“Yes, they are [monitoring]. [A] Navy plane will be at the vicinity when the resupply ships are in Ayungin,” he said.
Ayungin Shoal is located 105 nautical miles west of Palawan and covered by the country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
However, China also claims the shoal – which it calls Ren’ai Jiao – as part of their territory.