A China Coast Guard ship (CCG) directed a military-grade laser light at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, West Philippine Sea recently, causing temporary blindness to a Filipino coast guardian.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said CCG vessel with bow number 5205 pointed the laser light towards BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) in Ayungin Shoal past 6 p.m. on Feb. 6 while it was supporting a rotation and resupply (RoRe) mission of the Philippine Navy (PN).
“As BRP Malapascua reached a 10 nautical mile distance from Ayungin Shoal, the CCG vessel was monitored approximately four nautical miles of the ship’s dead ahead maneuvering from the portside heading starboard side,” Balilo said in a statement Monday, Feb. 13.
“The Chinese ship illuminated the green laser light twice toward the BRP Malapascua, causing temporary blindness to her crew at the bridge,” he added.
The harassed PCG personnel is not named by Balilo. It was not also immediately clear whether the RoRe mission of the Navy for the crew of the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal pushed through.
Photo: Philippine Coat Guard / PCG
After this, the CCG vessel even made “dangerous maneuvers” as it approached BRP Malapascua’s starboard quarter at about 150 yards, Balilo stated.
Due to this, BRP Malapascua had to alter her course from Ayungin Shoal to Lawak Island where it supported the maritime patrol and RoRe mission of BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) to its sub-stations in the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan, Balilo shared.
“The deliberate blocking of the Philippine government ships to deliver food and supplies to our military personnel on board the BRP Sierra Madre is a blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea,” Balilo said.
This was not the first time that CCG vessels tried to stop PCG ships from sailing in the Ayungin Shoal, which is located 194 km from Palawan, to deliver food and other critical supplies for the troops stationed onboard BRP Sierra Madre.
Back in August 2022, CCG vessel 5205 also prevented BRP Teresa Magbanua from coming close to Ayungin Shoal at a distance of 2.95 nautical miles to deliver supplies to the troops of BRP Sierra Madre. Their personnel removed the cover of the CCG ship’s 70 mm naval armament and formed a blockade together with two Chinese maritime militias and CCG 5102 to prevent Philippine ships from reaching the Filipino soldiers onboard the grounded vessel, Balilo revealed.
BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately ran aground on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a Philippine outpost there and assert the country’s sovereignty in the area. Since then, the Navy has been delivering essential supplies to the troops stationed there so they can survive. But recently, China has been making bold moves to block the RoRe missions.
Despite efforts to stop the RoRe missions, the PCG said it remains steadfast in supporting the Navy in fulfilling their mandate, and in protecting the sovereignty and rights of the country and Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea.
China continues to take aggressive actions to assert its claims in majority of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, despite the release of a tribunal ruling in 2016 that invalidated its sweeping claims in the tension-filled waters.
“Despite the dangerous maneuver of the much larger CCG ships and their aggressive actions at sea, the PCG ships will always be in the West Philippine Sea to sustain our presence and assert our sovereign rights,” Balilo said.