The dangerous maneuvers, shadowing, and other aggressive actions done by Chinese vessels against Philippine boats and ships in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) are egregious violation of maritime safety, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. stressed on Monday, Sept. 11.
Teodoro was reacting to the recent rotation and reprovisioning (RoRe) mission conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal where Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels harassed the boats that brought food and other supplies to Filipino soldiers onboard BRP Sierra Madre.
“Itong ginawa ng Chinese Coast Guard napakaegregious violation ito ng maritime safety. Hindi ako kapitan ng barko pero kita mo naman ang panggitgit nila at kung may mangyari sino ang sasagot? Ano ang mangyayari? Tayo dere-deretso lang nag-eescort ng ating RoRe vessels eh sila nanggigitgit ng ganoon eh. So sino ang iresponsable dito? Sa akin obvious na po ang kasagutan (What the Chinese Coast Guard did was an egregious violation of maritime safety. I’m not a ship captain but you have seen their dangerous maneuvers, and if something happens who will be responsible? What will happen then? We are just escorting our RoRe vessels but they are harassing us. So who’s responsible here? For me, the answer is obvious),” Teodoro said during the christening and commissioning ceremony of BRP Valentin Diaz (PS-177) and BRP Ladislao Diwa (PS-178) at the Philippine Navy’s (PN) Naval Station Jose Andrada in Manila.
At one point, a rigid hull infaltable boat (RHIB) by CCG ran aground in Ayungin Shoal after they followed the Philippine supply boats as they made their way to the atoll's shallow waters.
The Filipino crew onboard the wooden boats offered to rescue them but the CCG refused and pinned the blame on the Filipinos.
"Tayo ay sumusunod tayo sa maritime law at maritime safety. Kapag may nabalahaw na vessel inaalok nating tulungan. Ngayon kung maninisi sila ay tinatago na lang nila ang kapalpakan nila (We are just follwong maritime law and maritime safety. If there is a vessel that runs aground, we offer to assist them. now if they will blame us, they are just covering up their mistakes)," Teodoro said.
To deter China's violations on maritime safety, the defense chief emphasized the importance of beefing up the capabilities of the PN and PCG.
Part of the Navy’s efforts to strengthen its force was the inclusion of BRP Valentin Diaz (PS-177) and BRP Ladislao Diwa (PS-178) to its fleet.
The two patrol vessels are former Cyclone-class USS Monsoon (PC 4) and USS Chinook (PC 9) by the United States Navy which were donated to the PN through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program worth $13.8 million or around P780 million. They now form part of the Alvarez-class patrol vessels (ACPVs) of the PN which are currently in service with the Littoral Combat Force.
“Ang kailangan talaga ay sabay-sabay na upgrading din ng ating Coast Guard at ang ating Philippine Navy para sa ganoon ang internal ano, maritime security capabilities ay mapagtuunan nila ng pansin (We really need to upgrade our Coast Guard and Philippine Navy so that we can focus on our maritime security capabilities),” Teodoro said.
The new Navy ships are seen to boost patrol operations including the WPS to secure future RoRe missions in Ayungin Shoal. They are also seem to be used in protecting economic activity and combatting illegal fishing, and delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in times of emergencies.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said the BRP Valentin Diaz and BRP Ladislao Diwa “bring real, strategic benefit” not just to the Philippines but also to the alliance between the Philippines and United States.
“As the Philippines continues its courageous stand to uphold the international order and defend its rights in the West Philippine Sea, rest assured the United States stands with you in this all-important endeavor,” she said.
She also remembered the tragic 9/11 attack at the World Trade Center in America where nearly 3,000 people died, including at least 20 Filipinos, in a coordinated suicide terrorist mission by al-Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001.