(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Several senators and ambassadors expressed concern and denounced the collision of an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-contracted resupply boat and a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ship in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) on Sunday.
The incident happened during a regular and routine Rotation and Resupply (RORE) mission to BRP Sierra Madre at around 6:04 a.m. when a CCG ship made “dangerous blocking maneuvers,” causing it to collide with the AFP vessel, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said.
During the same RORE mission, NTF-WPS added that the port side of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)’s MRRV 4409 ship was bumped by a Chinese maritime militia vessel at approximately 6.4 nautical miles northeast of Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).
In a statement, Senator Francis Tolentino said that the incidents showed China’s continued disregard of the rules of international law and basic maritime safety.
“Ang naturang insidente ay dapat mapasailalim sa isang masusing imbestigasyon sa ilalim ng International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) at ang Code for Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents ng International Maritime Organization,” he said.
(Such an incident should be dealt with in a thorough investigation under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Code for Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents of the International Maritime Organization.)
Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada called the incidents “reckless and hostile behavior” of the CCG toward the AFP resupply boat.
“Makailang beses nang ginagawa ang panghaharang sa ating mga sasakyang pandagat at nangyari na ang pinangangambahan natin na insidente. Hindi na katanggap-tanggap ang pangyayaring ito. Aksidente man o hindi, patunay ito ng kawalan ng respeto sa atin at sa buhay ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.
(Our vessels have been intercepted several times, and the incident we feared has happened. This incident is no longer acceptable. Whether or not it was an accident, it shows the lack of respect for us and the lives of our fellow citizens.)
“This is a violation of our sovereign rights and an assault on our maritime personnel; it is completely unacceptable. Will a mere diplomatic protest still suffice,” he furthered.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, stressed that the PCG “has every right” to the WPS.
“Walang karapatan ang Tsina na itaboy ang ating mga tropa sa ating karagatan. At mas lalong wala silang karapatan na saktan at banggain ang Pilipinong barkong tanging gumagawa lang ng kanyang trabaho sa sarili nating teritoryo,” she said.
Hontiveros added that CCG vessels have “chased, blocked, and harassed our Philippine Coast Guard daily, 24/7” every time they conduct resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre.
“I call on the international community to join the Philippines’ condemnation of China’s most recent violence against the Filipino people. Our nations should not stop fighting for the rule of law. It is the only way to have a chance at true peace and stability across the region and the world,” she added.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri commended the PCG and AFP for displaying courage and restraint in continuing their resupply missions despite the “hostile and treacherous acts” of the CCG and their maritime militia.
He also asked the CCG to respect human lives and to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international laws governing safe maritime travel.
Ambassadors back PH in maritime dispute
United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay L. Carlson, in a post on the social media platform “X”, said that the US condemns China’s disruption of the resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.
The Embassy of Canada also said that China’s actions were unjustified.
It also affirmed its support for a rules-based order in the South China Sea consistent with international law.
German Ambassador Andreas Pfaffernoschke and European Union Ambassador Luc Véron likewise expressed concern over the incident and enjoined the Philippines in its call for the full observance of international law in the South China Sea.