Supply boats reach Ayungin Shoal amid sustained ‘pressure’ from Chinese vessels — source

Published November 23, 2021, 2:42 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The two civilian boats carrying food and other supplies for Filipino soldiers stationed at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) finally arrived on Tuesday morning, Nov. 23, but the journey was not as smooth-sailing as initially expected.

This photo is taken aboard one of the two supply boats as it approaches BRP Sierra Madre in the vicinity waters of Ayungin Shoal on Nov. 23, 2021. (Photo: DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana)

Supply boats “Unaiza Mae 1” and “Unaiza Mae 3” reached Ayungin Shoal and relayed the goods to the soldiers at BRP Sierra Madre around 11 a.m., according to a source.

“Resupply boats safely arrived [at] BRP Sierra Madre at 11 a.m. No untoward incident. Ginipit pa rin ng konti pero ‘di naman hinarang (They were slightly pressured but not blocked),” the source told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The arrival of the boats at Ayungin Shoal was also confirmed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

He said that a CCG vessel was present near Ayungin Shoal at the time the supply boats reached the shoal, and took photos and videos of the operation.

“The two civilian resupply boats manned by the Philippine Navy arrived at the [BRP] Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal at 11 a.m. [Tuesday] without any untoward incident,” Lorenzana said.

“There was a Chinese Coast Guard ship in the vicinity which sent a rubber boat with three persons near the [BRP] Sierra Madre while our boats were unloading and took photos and videos,” he added.

One of the supply boats that brought food and other goods to Filipino soldiers stationed at Ayungin Shoal. (Photo: DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana)

Meanwhile, Philippine Air Force (PAF) aircraft were flown to monitor the supply boats while Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships sailed near Pagasa Island to ensure they could readily respond in case of another confrontation.

Lorenzana said he already communicated to Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian the actions done by the CCG.

“[W]e consider these acts as a form of intimidation and harassment,” he added.

Before the supply boats left Palawan on Monday, Lorenzana said the Chinese envoy had promised him that the CCG will no longer intimidate the Filipino soldiers so long as their vessels will not be escorted by the military. The Philippines adhered to the condition but China apparently did not.

The boats resumed the resupply mission on Monday after they were blocked and blasted with water canon by the Chinese Coast Guard last week.

The success of the mission proved to be critical as a day or two of delay could possibly spell hunger for the Filipino soldiers on the remote island.