PH completes resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) — Authorities on Tuesday confirmed that the latest resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre was "successfully conducted."

"Notwithstanding attempts by China Coast Guard (CCG) and the Chinese Maritime Militia vessels to block, harass, and interfere with the supply mission, the Philippine supply ships Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 2, escorted by PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) vessels BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan, successfully completed their RoRe (Rotation and Resupply mission)," the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement.

RELATED: China moves to block new Ayungin resupply mission, says ex-US defense official

A CCG ship on Aug. 5 blocked and fired a water cannon at Philippine Coast Guard vessels escorting boats chartered by the AFP to deliver food and supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre. This resulted in one Philippine vessel unable to complete its mission.

The BRP Sierra Madre — a World War II-era ship – was deliberately grounded on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as the country's outpost in the West Philippine Sea.

Over the weekend, the Armed Forces of the Philippines urged the CCG not to interfere with the RoRe mission.

"Routine missions to Philippine outposts on various features in the West Philippine Sea will continue on a regular basis," the NTF-WPS said in its statement, adding these missions are part of the government's administrative functions over the West Philippine Sea "in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 2016 Arbitral Award, and domestic laws."

A Chinese Coast Guard statement noted that the Aug. 22 mission to Ayungin did not carry building materials. Chinese officials earlier said during the Aug. 5 mission, the Philippines defied warnings against transporting construction materials for the overhaul of BRP Sierra Madre.

“What I want to emphasize is that there has never been a problem with the delivery of humanitarian supplies because there is a special arrangement for such,” Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian told reporters on Tuesday, without elaborating. “The problem was with the transportation of large scale of building materials."

China maintains it has sovereignty over the area. The Philippines insists it has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Ayungin Shoal, which is part of its exclusive economic zone.

Philippine officials have also consistently denied China's allegation that Manila has made a deal to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo denied making a deal with China on the issue during her administration, and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said the administration of his father, former President Erap Estrada also made no such arrangement.

National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya also stressed there was no commitment to remove the vessel.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also made it clear the BRP was staying right where it is and that any such deal to remove the vessel — if it exists — was rescinded.