Philippines Conducted 14 Resupply Missions to 'Its Own' Ayungin Shoal Island in 2023 Amidst Rising Tensions in the West Philippine Sea

28 RORE Missions to Philippines-Held Islands in the West Philippine Sea Conducted in 2023
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  • 11:10 AM, February 6, 2024
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Philippines Conducted 14 Resupply Missions to 'Its Own' Ayungin Shoal Island in 2023 Amidst Rising Tensions in the West Philippine Sea
Philippine ship BRP Sierra Madre grounded on Ayungin Shoal @via Philippine media

The Philippines successfully carried out a total of 28 rotation and resupply (RORE) missions last year to maintain its presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), including 14 missions to the strategically significant Ayungin Shoal.

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Philippine Navy spokesperson for the WPS, provided details during a press briefing held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Ayungin Shoal is a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands, some 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, Philippines.

Trinidad stated that while the majority of the Ayungin Shoal missions were unimpeded, three encounters involved harassment or water cannon blasts by the China Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia. These incidents occurred in August, November, and December, emphasizing the challenges faced by Philippine forces in the disputed waters.

He clarified that the presence of the Chinese maritime militia during the RORE missions did not necessarily constitute illegal actions or harassment. Trinidad explained, "Presence is different from the illegal actions conducted (like) cutting across the bow, water cannon, or other activities."

The Ayungin Shoal is home to the BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57), where Philippine forces maintain a vigilant watch over national interests. Trinidad stated, "When we say harass, (we mean) water cannon, illegal maneuvers, presence would be there, I would not like to call it shadowing."

Philippines Conducted 14 Resupply Missions to 'Its Own' Ayungin Shoal Island in 2023 Amidst Rising Tensions in the West Philippine Sea

In addition to Trinidad's remarks, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla highlighted the legitimacy and routine nature of the RORE missions. Padilla stated that these activities are essential for exercising Manila's sovereign rights and jurisdiction over areas within the country's exclusive economic zone.

"For the year 2023, a total of 28 RORE missions were conducted to sustain our forces deployed in the Kalayaan Island Group and Ayungin Shoal," Padilla confirmed. "Recently, we have successfully provisioned our troops to include the local community in Pagasa Island, stationed personnel at Lawak, Kota, Likas, Parola, Panata, and Patag Islands."

Padilla reassured that the RORE missions are part of regular operations in line with the AFP's constitutional mandate, aiming to ensure the safety and well-being of sailors and marines stationed in the occupied features in the WPS.

The announcement coincides with recent accusations from the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), claiming that on February 2, it tracked a Philippine vessel delivering living supplies to the country's "illegal grounded warship."

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratley Islands), including the Ren'ai Reef (Ayungin Shoal), and its adjacent waters," it said, adding that the CCG is carrying out law enforcement activities in the sea areas under China's jurisdiction according to law.

On February 5, the CCG said the Philippine coast guard vessel intruded into waters adjacent to China's Huangyan Dao (Scarborough Shoal). It released a statement asserting that they drove away the intruding vessel "in accordance with the law."

Tensions in the WPS have been a longstanding issue, with China taking control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 after a months-long standoff involving paramilitary ships.

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