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PH: China harassment in Ayungin ‘aggressive, illegal use of force’

MANILA – The recent harassment by Chinese vessels on Philippine boats in Ayungin Shoal was an “aggressive and illegal use of force,” the Philippine government said Monday.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said the government made the conclusion following President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s visit to the Western Command (Wescom) on Sunday where he met with the soldiers involved in the rotation and resupply (RORE) mission hijacked by the China Coast Guard (CCG).

“We see the latest incident in Ayungin not as a misunderstanding or an accident. It is a deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission,” Teodoro said in a Palace press briefing.

“After our visit to our troops in Palawan yesterday, where the President personally talked to the troops involved in the RORE, we have now come to a conclusion that it was not a misunderstanding or an accident. We are not downplaying the incident. It was an aggressive and illegal use of force,” he said.

On June 17, CCG boats rammed a Philippine government supply ship, brandished bladed weapons, and seized disassembled rifles during the country’s RORE mission in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

During the confrontation, one Filipino soldier had his thumb cut off after it got caught between Philippine and Chinese boats.

Marcos visited the troops involved in the RORE mission at the Wescom headquarters in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and expressed his admiration and all-out support to them.

Known as the “Defenders and Patriots of the Last Frontier,” the Wescom has jurisdiction over the country’s maritime territory, particularly the WPS.

READ: PBBM on WPS tension: Calm, peaceful disposition not sign of submission

Teodoro also echoed Marcos’ statement that the Philippines, as a responsible state, continue to find peaceful solutions to the WPS issue.

He said the government’s policy on the WPS will not change despite the incident.

No announcement of RORE schedule

Meanwhile, Teodoro said the Philippines will continue in carrying out RORE missions on a regular basis, but will no longer announce its schedule.

“We reiterate that we seek neither permission nor consent from anyone in performing our sworn duties in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“In this regard we will continue our rotation and resupply missions on a regular basis, the welfare of our troops in the BRP Sierra Madre being a matter of utmost importance. The President has reiterated that we will not publish schedules of any RORE,” he said.

No convening for National Security Council yet

National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año said he is not recommending the convening of the National Security Council “as of the moment.”

He said the National Maritime Council is the one managing the issue.

“At this moment, the situation in Ayungin and issues in the West Philippine Sea are effectively being managed by National Maritime Council. In fact, the National Maritime Council has already convened and acting on the direction of the President.”

“So, at this moment, we are not recommending for the convening of the National Security Council. However, the President has the discretion to convene the full council or the executive committee anytime,” he said.

Commendable

On Monday, the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) also lauded the professionalism of Navy troops and enlisted personnel despite China’s harassment during the June 17 rotation and resupply mission in the Ayungin Shoal in the WPS.

“In spite of escalatory actions of China seagoing elements in the WPS, our Navy personnel exercise extreme caution and unequalled patience to successfully complete their mission amidst undue harassment and risk of physical harm,” AGFO president and chair, retired Vice Adm. Emilio Marayag said in a statement.

Marayag said China’s actions violate several United Nations protocols and called these piratical, escalatory and “considered unchivalrous in the honorable profession of arms.”

“AGFO supports and trusts the government’s stand to assert our sovereign rights in the WPS and exhorts the Armed Forces of the Philippines in protecting and take care of our frontline troops,” he said. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

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