Tolentino urges DFA to seek ICRC aid in resupply missions to BRP Sierra Madre


At a glance

    Senate Majority Leader Francis "Tol" Tolentino on Tuesday, June 18 asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to seek assistance from the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in delivering food supplies to Filipino soldiers stationed at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

    In a letter dated June 18, 2024, Tolentino made the recommendation to DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo after China’s “dangerous and reckless” behavior in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This, after a disrupted resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal that led to injuries of Filipino troops.

    “In view of the escalating conditions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), particularly near the Ayungin Shoal relative to our resupply missions, my humble recommendation is to seek the assistance of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) based in Geneva, Switzerland,” Tolentino said in his message to Manalo.

    The AFP attempted to bring fresh food supplies and other provisions to troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre outpost in Ayungin Shoal early Monday, June 17, but the mission was intercepted by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), China Coast Guard (CCG), and Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

    The Chinese maritime forces “engaged in dangerous maneuvers, including ramming and towing,” the task force said.

    “The ICRC, under the Geneva Convention, can facilitate the necessary humanitarian aid to our Navy personnel living in BRP Sierra Madre and would pave the way for delivering the needed food supplies by our soldiers therein,” Tolentino said.

    He added that now is the time for the Philippines to file a case against China at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and other Human Rights Council agencies because of its harassment of Filipino soldiers and fishermen. 

    He said China has no right or jurisdiction to implement domestic law over its neighbor, especially in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

    Tolentino says China is violating several international laws, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law, the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), and many more.


    Alternative livelihood for fishermen

    Meanwhile, Tolentino urged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), to work closely with local governments to provide alternative livelihoods for fisherfolk groups affected by the raging West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute. 

    Tolentino visited three coastal municipalities in Zambales – Sta. Cruz, Masinloc, and Subic –  where he provided assistance to more than 500 fisherfolk. He also led town hall meetings dubbed, ‘Talakayang WPS,’ together with local government leaders, representatives from BFAR and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), as well as leaders and members of various fishers’ cooperatives and associations.

    "We will explore what alternative means of livelihood can be provided, and I promise to press our government agencies to assist you," the senator assured local fisherfolk.

    Tolentino expressed confidence that the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act (Senate Bill No. 2492), which he principally authored and sponsored, will be passed and enacted following the resumption of the Senate session in July. 

    Tolentino also chairs the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones.