In yet another concerning circumstance, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) disclosed a new incident involving two Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels engaged in “dangerous maneuvers” that posed a significant collision risk with two Philippine ships near the Ayungin Shoal. The incident occurred on June 30.
PCG revealed that two CCG vessels recklessly approached the BRP Malabrigo and BRP Pascua, which were then assisting in a resupply mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), displaying aggressive behavior and causing alarm among the crew members.
“When the two PCG vessels reached a distance of 10.59 nautical miles away from Ayungin Shoal, namataan namin itong dalawang CCG vessels, 5201 and 4203,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea (WPS), said.
“Ang ginawa nila is they came close sa ating dalawang PCG vessels within approximate distance of 100 yards,” he added.
Tarriela said that later on, six Chinese militia vessels allegedly attempted to block the path of the Filipino ships, preventing them from going to Ayungin Shoal, and jeopardizing the safety of all personnel involved.
He mentioned that PCG crew members also reacted to radio challenges initiated by the foreign vessel, specifically questioning their presence in the region, which falls under the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country.
The Ayungin Shoal, also known as the Second Thomas Shoal, is a crucial territory within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is home to the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded Philippine Navy vessel serving as a strategic outpost in the region. The Philippines maintains a continuous presence at Ayungin Shoal to assert its territorial claims despite China’s persistent challenges.
This incident adds to a series of similar encounters between Chinese and Filipino vessels in the contested waters, highlighting the ongoing maritime dispute. The Philippine government has reiterated its commitment to protecting its sovereign rights and called for a peaceful resolution to the maritime disputes through dialogue and adherence to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“This is our EEZ. They are not supposed to challenge us because in accordance with UNCLOS, we have sovereign rights sa area na ‘to,” Tarriela said.
Last April, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel intercepted the BRP Malapascua near Ayungin Shoal.
Furthermore, the BRP Malapascua and BRP Malabrigo allegedly experienced surveillance from Chinese navy and coast guard ships, along with repeated instructions to depart from the area.
Following the occurrence, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the PCG to determine the precise locations of the Philippines’ fishing areas in the WPS in light of the ongoing territorial conflict with China.