National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the resupply missions to Filipino troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) will continue.
The Western Command earlier reported that three Chinese Coast Guard vessels “blocked and water cannoned” two Philippine supply boats or “bancas” last November 16. The BRP Sierra Madre is the outpost of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the disputed waters.
“We will continue the resupply and we do not have to ask the permission of anybody because that is within our territory,” said Esperon, also chairperson of the National Task Force (NTF)-WPS, in an interview with reporters on Thursday.
“We hope that with our protest, they will also heed our calls for them to back off,” he added.
No one was in the water cannoning incident but the Philippine vessels, which were identified as Unaiza Mae 1 and 3, had to abort their mission after one of them had its outrigger damaged by the water cannon.
Esperon said he was also surprised over the unusual presence of many Chinese ships off the Ayungin Shoal.
“Previous to that, for almost one week, we were wondering why they have an unusual presence in the Ayungin Shoal). Usually, there were only two Chinese Maritime Militia (vessels there) but since last week, there are now 19),” he added.
The Chinese presence off Pagasa Island has also grown significantly, Esperon said.
“(In) Pagasa (there are also) record number (of Chinese vessels spotted) 45, (which is a) record number for the year, (they are) so very aggressive, so we are protesting that because that’s part of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and those are low tide elevations, tulad like Mischief Reef, (is a) low tide elevation, so nobody is supposed to be there, it is within our EEZ,” he added.
Esperon said this is a huge increase from an average of only 20 ships off Pagasa Island.