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Philippine Marines Drew Firearms When China Coast Guard Neared Outpost

Philippine personnel aboard BRP Sierra Madre (Chinese state media)
Philippine personnel aboard BRP Sierra Madre (Chinese state media)

Published Jun 5, 2024 7:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

Officials with the Armed Forces of the Philippines have confirmed that a squad of Philippine Marines drew weapons when China Coast Guard personnel moved in to seize an airdropped shipment of food at Second Thomas Shoal last month. 

The Philippines has accused the China Coast Guard of seizing essential supplies that were air-dropped to the garrison on the BRP Sierra Madre in mid-May. China routinely blockades the outpost using its coast guard and maritime militia vessels, and this often forces the Armed Forces of the Philippines to deliver goods to the military detachment at Second Thomas Shoal by parachute.

Philippine military officials said that China Coast Guard personnel in rigid inflatable boats intercepted one out of the four parcels that were parachute-dropped during an airborne supply run in mid-May. During that altercation, the China Coast Guard boats moved to within five meters of the BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded landing ship that serves as the Philippine base on the reef. As a precautionary measure, the marines followed their rules of engagement and deployed small arms. 

"Whenever you see imminent threats coming your way, you best be prepared," said AFP Chief of Staff Romeo Brawner. "It's part of the rules of engagement." 

Chinese state news network CGTN claimed earlier this week that Philippine personnel had pointed their guns at the China Coast Guard during the altercation. The footage showed armed personnel aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, but the imagery did not apear to show whether weapons had ever been trained on a target. 

 

 

Following this run-in, according to the AFP, the Chinese boat team opened the airdrop parcel and dumped the food supplies over the side. Philippine forces were able to recover some of the goods from the water. 

"Our personnel are governed by the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and clearly acted with the highest level of professionalism," said the AFP in a statement. "Foreign vessels that venture dangerously close to our military vessel and in violation of safe distance protocols necessitate heightened vigilance."