SERIOUSLY concerned over the recent “aggression” of Chinese ships resulting in two collision incidents near the Ayungin Shoal, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to conduct an investigation, according to the Department of National Defense (DND).
He gave the instruction at a command conference in Malacañang on Monday after Chinese coast guard and militia vessels collided with two Philippines ships engaged in the Rotation and Resupply (RORE) mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal at the weekend.
“The Philippine Coast Guard has been directed to proceed swiftly with its maritime investigation in accordance with international maritime safety regulations,” DND Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” C. Teodoro said in a press conference in Malacañang.
PCG Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan said the probe will determine the extent of the damage done to the Philippine vessels.
“But at this point, it is very, very clear that the two incidents are violations of Collision Regulations— the very regulations we coast guards are expected to enforce. So we find it unfortunate or ironic that the fellow coast guard will violate the law where they, themselves are supposed to enforce,” Gavan said.
The result of the investigation, expected to be completed within five days, will be submitted by the Department of Transportation to the Office of the President.
Following the sincidents, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to condemn the reckless and illegal act of the Chinese government.
Teodoro described the collisions as a “serious and egregious violation of international law” and an “escalation” of China’s illegal activity within the country’s maritime territory.
He stressed the two incidents happened within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“China has no legal right or authority to conduct law enforcement operations in our territorial waters. We are taking this incident seriously at the highest level of government,” the DND official said.
The country, he noted, will not compromise any of its territorial “integrity and sovereignty,” which was affirmed by the 2016 arbitral award that invalidated the 9-dash and 10-dash line maps of China.
He also called out China for trying to distort the facts of incidents in its recent statements on the matter, where it supposedly tried to exercise restraint during the collisions.
“Any unbiased person with a modicum of reason will see that this is not restraint,” Teodoro said.
He also slammed Beijing for reiterating its earlier claim that Manila had committed to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal: a claim already denied by President Marcos.
The recent collisions, Teodoro said, cast doubts on the possible enforcement of the pending Code of Conduct for ships passing the South China Sea, which was discussed last Monday in Beijing.
“What kind of message is this [incident] signaling? I want to know and we deserve undistorted answers, the truth from the government of China,” Teodoro said.
Image credits: AP/Aaron Favila,