The BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea

A new incident of a “close encounter” involving ships from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and China Coast Guard (CCG) has been reported during a resupply mission to the Philippine outpost on BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, according to information provided by a US tracking system.

Based on data from the automatic identification system (AIS), the incident occurred as the two Philippine resupply escorts, BRP Sindangan and BRP Cabra, were nearing the entrance of Ayungin Shoal on Tuesday morning.

A group of four Chinese militia ships was observed forming a blockade, presumably with the intention of impeding the progress of the Philippine supply ship.

Subsequently, China Coast Guard ship 215551 appeared and appeared to approach BRP Cabra from a proximity described as “quite close.”

Ray Powell, a security expert based in the United States, noted that the exact details of the events during the resupply mission are difficult to ascertain as most of the CCG vessels involved have gone “AIS dark,” meaning their AIS systems are not transmitting their positions.

Powell mentioned that only the Chinese militia ships are clearly observable, engaging in actions that actively obstruct access to the shoal.

Around noon, it was observed that the resupply mission seemed to have concluded, with the two PCG vessels beginning to move back towards the east. Powell, who leads Project Myoushu at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation and was a Fellow at Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute in 2021, stated that he would await an official report from the Philippine government regarding the success of the mission, as well as any accompanying photos or videos.

The resupply mission on Tuesday to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal was a follow-up to a previous mission on August 5th, which had not been completed due to an incident involving a water cannon between one of the PCG resupply boats and a CCG ship. (AI/MNM)