Philippine Forces Making "Operational Adjustments" After Chinese Water Cannon Attack

During a March 23 RORE mission, a Chinese vessel's high-pressure water cannons injured two sailors and nearly threw a third overboard, deterring a Philippine supply ship.
  • bureau
  • 10:49 AM, March 27, 2024
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Philippine Forces Making
Aerial footage from March 23, released by the AFP, depicts a China Coast Guard ship (L) using water cannons against the Philippine military-chartered boat Unaizah May 4.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced on Wednesday that it was making "operational adjustments" to its rotation and reprovisioning (RORE) missions to the Sierra Madre ship, which is anchored in a part of the West Philippine Sea claimed by China.

The "operational adjustments" will be implemented in the next RORE mission to the Sierra Madre ship. AFP chief, Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., instructed troops of the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) to persevere with their RORE mission despite Chinese provocations.

“Definitely, our RORE missions will continue because the BRP Sierra Madre is considered a commissioned Philippine Navy (PN) ship. Those who man the ship are soldiers of the AFP, so it is our duty to continue bringing supplies to sustain them in their operations and to ensure that their morale and welfare are taken care of," he said in an interview with reporters at Wescom headquarters.

In what is perhaps the most severe water cannon attack against a supply ship, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel used high-pressure water cannons to deter a Philippine supply ship from conducting a RORE mission on March 23. Two sailors were injured, and a third was nearly thrown overboard in the incident.

The AFP chief also mentioned that they are in discussions with the Philippine Coast Guard, PN, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and other government agencies regarding steps to prevent a repeat of the March 23 incident.

"We will be adjusting our operations, but definitely, we won't be disclosing those adjustments to anyone," he stressed.

Brawner also noted that the March 23 incident was not only the "most dangerous" but also marked the first time that a Filipino resupply ship was prevented from reaching the BRP Sierra Madre.

However, despite severe damage to the vessel and injuries to some crew members, the AFP chief classified the RORE mission as a "partial success" as they were still able to conduct a rotation of personnel and deliver some supplies through RHIBs (rigid-hulled inflatable boats).

"Nevertheless, we are all concerned because of the level of aggressiveness shown during the latest resupply mission," he added.

Meanwhile, China issued a statement asserting that the China Coast Guard had to take necessary law enforcement measures in response to the intrusion by Philippine vessels. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said on Monday, “the actions taken on the scene were justified, lawful, professional, restrained, and beyond reproach.”

Lin stated that Ren'ai Jiao is part of China's Nansha Qundao and has always been part of China's territory. He claimed that the Philippines broke its promise on March 23 by sending a supply vessel and two Coast Guard vessels to “illegally intrude” into the adjacent waters of Ren'ai Jiao under the guise of resupplying necessities.

In fact, Lin alleged, this Philippine resupply mission aimed not to send necessities but to bring construction materials to the military vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao for repair and reinforcement, in an attempt to build a permanent outpost on China's uninhabited reef, thus permanently and illegally occupying Ren'ai Jiao. Lin noted that the Philippines has repeatedly reneged on its commitments, refusing to fulfill its promises to China.

China urges the Philippines to immediately cease infringing on China's sovereignty and rights and stop the provocations. If the Philippines does not change its course, China will continue to take resolute steps to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” Lin threatened.

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