The persistent harassment and aggression displayed by China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels against Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is a symptom of a systematic and consistent behavior that does not align with the universally accepted norms of coast guard organizations around the world.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant Adm. Ronnie Gil Gavan made the bold remark as he condemned the CCG’s use of water cannon against PCG ships and supply boats during the latest resupply mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in WPS on Friday, Nov. 10.
“The systematic and consistent behavior of the CCG vessels does not align with the universally accepted behavior of coast guards,” Gavan said in a press conference on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Gavan said that coast guard organizations are supposed to ensure safety of lives at sea but the CCG’s use of water cannon to drive away the Philippine vessels “deliberately violated the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) of 1972,” to which the People’s Republic of China is also a signatory state.
During the resupply run, the PCG deployed three of its vessels — BRP Sindangan, BRP Cabra, and BRP Melchora Aquino — to escort supply boats Unaizah May 1 and M/L Kalayaan.
But CCG vessel with bow number “5203” deployed a water cannon against M/L Kalayaan while being escorted by the PCG ships.
Further, Gavan said that a total of five CCG ships and 28 Chinese maritime militia (CMM) boats “recklessly harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous maneuvers” against the Philippine vessels “in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct” the resupply mission.
The PCG also monitored four People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy vessels including a hospital ship, a corvette-type vessel, and a missile boat within the immediate vicinity of Ayungin Shoal, Gavan revealed.
“The PCG condemns the CCG’s unprovoked act of coercion and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate, lawful and routine Philippine rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin shoal. It has put the lives of our personnel at risk,” Gavan said.
“The dangerous maenuvering shown by the CCG vessels are illegal, reckless and irresponsible actions that put into question their narrative of law enforcement and their identity as a coast guard organization,” he added.
On the other hand, Gavan said that the PCG vessels “acted responsibly” by avoiding the CCG vessels which was “consistent with operational rules based on international law and other International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions aligned with the peaceful and rules-based norms among coast guard organizations in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our Philippine Coast Guard skippers made sure that they were able to avoid collision,” the PCG chief noted.
Gavan said the PCG will continue to support the resupply missions of the AFP despite the dangers posed by the aggression of the CCG vessels towards them.
“The Philippine Coast Guard will not be deterred from implementing the President’s [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] exclusive guidance for the Philippines to exercise our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of our exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” Gavan said.
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