Philippine Navy says it won’t fire first bullet against China Coast Guard

China Coast Guard personnel brandish bladed and pointed weapons upon approaching Philippine Navy boats at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal on June 17. - Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP

MANILA: Despite acting like a “band of barbarians” in the West Philippine Sea, the country’s navy said it will not fire the first bullet against China Coast Guard (CCG).

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, made the pronouncement on Thursday (June 20) after the June 17 confrontation with the CCG, during which Chinese personnel boarded Filipino boats, looted firearms, and caused serious injuries to one of the sailors.

“We have told our troops, use of force for mission accomplishment is not authorised unless in self defence,” Trinidad told reporters in a phone interview when asked if the incident in Ayungin Shoal is meant for the navy to fire the first shot.

Pressed about what would happen if the country fired the first shot against the CCG, Trinidad said: “I don’t want to speculate, but it is precisely why [we] tell our troops, ‘let us not get there’; we are putting a lot of effort into that.”

Bolo-wielding CCG personnel rammed, towed, and even boarded Philippine vessels during a resupply mission for the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, a move which its spokesperson Gan Yu only deemed as “control measures.”

Manila’s regular resupply mission in the BRP Sierra Madre became one of the flashpoints of tension in the West Philippine Sea, and the latest mission saw the most violent actions from Beijing thus far.

Beijing asserts sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea —including most of the West Philippine Sea—rejecting a 2016 international tribunal ruling that effectively invalidated its claims while ruling heavily in favour of Manila

“I call them a ‘band of barbarians’ and, in the first place, they have no right to wear the uniform,” Trinidad said of CCG’s latest violent moves.

“Coast guardsmen are supposed to be responsible for the safety of life at sea — their actions endanger life at sea.”

“It does not speak well of a country that wants to be a global power,” he further said. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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