Despite efforts by Chinese vessels to impede the operation, the Philippines announced the successful delivery of supplies to marines stationed aboard the dilapidated military outpost BRP Sierra Madre. Situated at the contested Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, the mission was conducted in the face of interference from China’s Coast Guard and Maritime Militia.
Chinese Attempts to Block Supply Mission
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirmed the supply delivery to the stranded BRP Sierra Madre, located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China asserts its sovereignty over the area, which it designates as Renai Reef. Despite territorial disputes, the Philippines maintained its commitment to supporting its military personnel stationed on the outpost.
The supply mission encountered resistance from both the China Coast Guard and the Chinese Maritime Militia. The two forces attempted to obstruct, harass, and interfere with the delivery process. These incidents underscore the volatile nature of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
China’s Maritime Militia, an unofficial yet significant presence, is often used to assert Beijing’s territorial claims, as acknowledged by the Philippines, the United States, and marine security experts. In response to the successful supply delivery, China’s Coast Guard expressed opposition, accusing the Philippines of capitalizing on the opportunity to reinforce the disputed shoal’s “illegal construction materials.”
Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showcased two Chinese vessels in close proximity to a Filipino ship, suggesting attempts to obstruct its path to the BRP Sierra Madre. These visuals provide tangible evidence of the challenges faced during the supply mission.
Grounded deliberately in 1999 by the Philippines, the World War II-era navy transport ship BRP Sierra Madre serves as a symbol of the country’s territorial claim to the region. Despite its deteriorated condition, the outpost remains manned by Filipino marines on a rotational basis.
China’s Coast Guard spokesperson, Liu Dejun, criticized the Philippines for the supply operation, asserting that the Philippines took advantage of the opportunity to enhance the “illegal construction materials” used for reinforcing the disputed shoal. Liu accused the Philippines of entering Chinese waters without permission for the mission.