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Tensions Escalate in the West Philippine Sea as China Coast Guard Water Cannons Philippine Supply Vessel Anew

The China Coast Guard has once again water cannoned one of the Philippine vessels that provide fresh supplies on troops onboard BRP Sierra Madre.

China Coast Guard, Water Cannon, Replenishment Mission, Philippine Supply Ship, BRP Sierra Madre, West Philippine Sea
A China Coast Guard vessel seen aiming its water cannons on the M/L Kalayaan, a replenishment vessel.
Video screengrab from the Philippine Coast Guard.

In a disturbing incident that unfolded on November 10, 2023, tensions in the hotly contested waters of the West Philippine Sea flared once again as the China Coast Guard employed water cannons against a Philippine supply vessel on a replenishment mission near Ayungin Shoal. This latest confrontation comes on the heels of a partially completed resupply mission on October 22, marred by collisions in the open sea.

The targeted Philippine supply vessel, tasked with providing crucial replenishment to troops stationed onboard the BRP Sierra Madre, was met with aggressive resistance by the China Coast Guard in the Ayungin Shoal. The shoal, a strategically important feature in the South China Sea, has been a focal point in the territorial disputes between China and the Philippines.

The Philippines had deployed a convoy consisting of the supply vessel and three escorting Philippine Coast Guard vessels – the BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702), BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407), and BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409). The convoy's mission was to deliver fresh supplies to the troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, a military outpost that has been a symbol of Philippine presence in the region.

This latest incident underscores the escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea, where competing territorial claims and disputes over maritime boundaries have led to a series of confrontations between regional nations. The Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, has been a consistent flashpoint in this ongoing geopolitical saga.

The water cannon attack by the China Coast Guard raises concerns about the safety and freedom of navigation in the area, as well as the potential for further military escalation. The use of force against a supply vessel on a humanitarian mission adds a dangerous dimension to the already complex situation in the region.

The Philippine supply vessel, a vital lifeline for the troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, was reportedly undeterred by the Chinese aggression. The crew displayed remarkable resilience as they continued their mission to deliver essential supplies despite the hostile encounter. The determination of the Philippine crew reflects the importance placed on maintaining a strategic presence in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine Coast Guard vessels accompanying the supply convoy played a critical role in ensuring the safety and security of the mission. The BRP Melchora Aquino, BRP Sindangan, and BRP Cabra demonstrated professionalism and restraint, navigating through challenging circumstances to safeguard the supply vessel and its mission.

This recent clash comes just weeks after the October 22 resupply mission, which was fraught with challenges. During that operation, two collision incidents occurred in the open sea, resulting in the partial completion of the mission. The collisions raised concerns about the potential for accidents in the heavily trafficked waters and highlighted the need for increased maritime cooperation and communication to avoid such incidents in the future.

The international community has been closely monitoring developments in the South China Sea, urging restraint and peaceful resolution of disputes. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides a framework for resolving maritime disputes, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and diplomacy over aggressive actions.

The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests against China, condemning the use of water cannons in the Ayungin Shoal incident. The Philippines asserts that such actions violate international law and endanger the lives of those involved in the humanitarian mission.

China, on the other hand, has defended its actions, claiming sovereignty over the South China Sea and accusing the Philippines of provocative actions in contested waters. The Chinese government maintains that its Coast Guard acted within its rights to protect its territorial integrity.

As tensions persist in the West Philippine Sea, there is a growing urgency for regional stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue and find diplomatic solutions to avoid further escalation. The international community is watching closely, and the outcome of these disputes will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for regional stability and the future of maritime security in the South China Sea.

References:
3. CNN






(c) 2023, Philippine Military Analysis and Updates.
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This is just a short advisory

Effective by September 2023, the Philippine Military Analysis and Updates (PMAU) main website will start providing defense-related news and updated information about the Philippine national security and military-related modernization updates.

The updates may provide randomly as the website recently received optimization to ensure that information will get provided across, with additional context that gives further substance and other details about a specific topic.

This is for the information of our fellow readers of this website after months of inactivity. Thank you.

 - PMAU Admins
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Philippine, United States Forces To Hold Largest Annual Balikatan Exercises This Month

In the light of increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, the Philippines and the United States are about to undertake its largest iteration of its longest-running bilateral exercises this year, as this now sets to foster strong defense relations far beyond the alliance set by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

C-130J Super Hercules, Balikatan 2023, US Marine Corps, Philippines
A C-130J Super Hercules of the United States Marine Corps unloading
materiel in Subic Bay International Airport. 
(c) Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

The Philippines and the United States are set to hold the Balikatan Exercises 2023, their largest bilateral exercise of the year. The exercises will begin on April 11, 2023, in selective areas of the country, particularly in the Northern Luzon area.

This year's event is expected to be more comprehensive than previous iterations of the Balikatan Exercises, with the Royal Australian Armed Forces joining in. The exercises will run for 18 days, concluding on April 28, 2023, and at least 17,600 military personnel are expected to participate. Of this number, 12,000 are American troops.

The Balikatan Exercises are an annual training event that aims to improve the interoperability of the Philippines and the United States in various areas, such as counter-terrorism, disaster response, and maritime security. It has been conducted since 1991, and this year's event is set to demonstrate the strong partnership between the Philippines, the United States, and Australia.

One of the highlights of this year's exercises is the live-fire phase, which is a first for the conduct of Balikatan. The live-fire exercise will include the sinking of a fishing vessel, which will serve as the target. The sinking of the vessel is expected to showcase the military's capability to protect the country's maritime interests.

The exercises will also include humanitarian and civic assistance projects, such as medical and dental missions, engineering projects, and school refurbishments. These projects aim to improve the lives of the people in the communities where the exercises will be conducted.

The number of participants in this year's Balikatan Exercises is significantly higher than the previous iteration, which had only 8,900 soldiers in attendance. The large number of participants indicates the strong commitment of the Philippines, the United States, and Australia to promoting stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

In summary, the Balikatan Exercises 2023 will showcase the strong partnership between the Philippines, the United States, and Australia. The live-fire exercise and the humanitarian and civic assistance projects demonstrate the military's capability to protect the country's interests while improving the lives of the people in the communities where the exercises will be conducted. The event serves as a symbol of cooperation and mutual defense, promoting stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.






(c) 2023 PMAU.
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Finland Officially Becomes a Member of NATO

Finland is now officially the 31st member of the largest defense pact that spans the both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, in which it gives Russia an additional border to the NATO territory, on top of what it already has a border between NATO countries Poland and Lithuania in its territorial exclave of Kaliningrad.

NATO now comprise of at least 31 countries after Finland joined.
Image Source.

In a historic move, Finland has officially become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The announcement was made on Tuesday by the Finnish president's office and was confirmed by NATO's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.

The decision to join NATO was made after years of discussion and debate within Finland's government. The move is seen as a significant step towards enhancing Finland's security and strengthening its relationship with the international community.

Regarding this historic development, Finland's President Sauli Niinist├ said in a statement: "Finland has today become a member of the defence alliance NATO. The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins."

This report comes just after Turkey's Parliament ratified the decision to let Finland join the organization, making it the latest member to join the defense pact designed originally to deter the then Soviet-formed Warsaw Pact, which is now a thing of the past, written into the history books.

The decision to join NATO was not without controversy, however. Some in Finland had expressed concern that the move would lead to increased tension with Russia, which has long been a source of tension in the region. Others argued that Finland's traditionally neutral stance should be maintained.

Despite these concerns, the majority of Finland's government and its people supported the decision to join NATO, and the move is expected to have significant implications for Finland's future security and foreign policy.

With Finland's accession, NATO now has 31 member states, all committed to the organization's fundamental principles of collective defense, democracy, and the rule of law. The addition of Finland to this group is seen as a significant step towards ensuring peace and stability in the region and beyond.

(c) 2023 PMAU.
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Japan Prepares Military Aid to Four Countries, Including the Philippines

As Japan now increases its security budget to improve its defense capabilities, so does its prospects of providing foreign military aid over the top of its usual Official Development Assistance or ODA loans for infrastructure and civilian-related developments like in the case of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Japan's J/FPS-3 Radar, in which similar platforms have recently exported to the Philippines.
Image Source.

In a move aimed at strengthening its ties with like-minded countries, Japan is preparing to provide military aid to four nations in the region, Yomiuri Shimbun detailed on its news report. The framework for the Official Security Assistance (OSA) program is currently being finalized, and the four beneficiary countries have been identified as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Fiji, and Malaysia.

Japan sees the Philippines as a strategic defense partner in the region and plans to provide a radar system as part of its aid package to the country. This is in addition to the J/FPS-3 Air surveillance radars that the Philippine Air Force has already purchased in the defense of its Air Defense Identification Zone. Currently, the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone covers at least 50% of its airspace, with 100% coverage and implementation being its primary goal by 2028.

The details of the aid packages for the other three countries have not been disclosed yet. However, it is expected that Japan will provide them with similar military equipment and technology to enhance their defense capabilities.

Japan's move to provide military aid to like-minded countries comes amid growing concerns over China's assertiveness in the region. Japan has been increasingly worried about China's territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and has been stepping up efforts to build partnerships with other countries in the region.

The OSA program is part of Japan's broader strategy to deepen its security cooperation with other countries. Under the program, Japan provides military equipment and technology to other countries in need, with the aim of enhancing their defense capabilities.

With the finalization of the OSA program framework and the identification of the four beneficiary countries, Japan is expected to start providing military aid soon. The move is likely to strengthen Japan's strategic partnerships in the region and help like-minded countries enhance their defense capabilities.

(c) 2023 PMAU.

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New EDCA Sites Announced, Most Deployed in Northern Luzon Area

The Philippine government has now made it official regarding the additional four (4) EDCA sites that both the Philippines and the United States have agreed to earlier this year.

Four more EDCA sites were in the map, with three out of four sites deployed in Northern Luzon.
(c) Presidential Communications Office

Malaca├▒ang Palace has revealed the locations of four new sites that will be included in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States. The announcement was made on Monday, April 4, by the Presidential Communications Office, which quoted President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as saying that the sites are "suitable and mutually beneficial" for both countries.

The four new sites are Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan. According to the Presidential Communications Office, these sites are strategically located to defend the country's eastern coast and will enhance the Philippines' defense capabilities.

The EDCA between the Philippines and the United States was signed in 2014 during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III. It allows the US military to have access to and use of certain Philippine military bases and facilities for a period of 10 years. The agreement aims to strengthen the alliance between the two countries and enhance their defense capabilities.

The announcement of the new EDCA sites comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, where the Philippines and other neighboring countries have competing claims with China. The Philippines has been increasing its defense capabilities in recent years, including through the modernization of its armed forces.

President Marcos Jr. has been a strong advocate of the country's defense modernization and has been pushing for the acquisition of more modern weapons and equipment for the military. He has also been seeking to strengthen the country's alliances with other countries, including the United States and Japan, to ensure the Philippines' security and territorial integrity.

The inclusion of the four new sites in the EDCA is expected to further enhance the Philippines' defense capabilities and contribute to the country's efforts to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Reference:

(c) 2023 PMAU. 
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On The German Veto Regarding The Sale of Guarani 6x6 APCs to the Philippines

 Just recently, reports are coming left and right about the problems surrounding the ‘delivery’ of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier, whereby the Germany’s office of export control blocks the sale of 28 said Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army, citing that it has German subcomponents onboard.

This situation is reminiscent issue surrounding the U.S. LHTEC-made engines of the Turkish T-129 ‘ATAK’ Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force, which made delays to the delivery of the air assets and gets delivered eventually as it gets ironed out, with the United States ‘apparently’ allowed the Turkish have the engines since the Philippines is the recipient of the helicopters.

Apparently, the reasons cited does not involve the Philippine Army nor the Philippine government itself, but rather, this is the case that revolves around the fact that both countries embroiled in a diplomatic standoff, involving Brazil’s refusal of providing Ukraine with 35mm ammunition that the Germans requested, and they see this as a simple payback that put the units that the Philippines and other countries, hostage.

From Elbit’s point of view since they are the ones that contract and provide these vehicles to the Philippine Army, this will be problematic as they need to provide the talking and justification that this issue is out of the Israeli company’s hands and that any blacklisting to their end, under the provisions under the Procurement Law or the Republic Act 9184, may not needed to apply at this type of circumstance, which of course will be at the Department of National Defense’ Discretion.

Since it is out of Elbit and the Philippine Armed Forces’ control, the only best thing that can get done in this case for now is wait and hope that both Germany and Brazil resolve their diplomatic differences, as Ukraine currently needs more ammunition to keep their war effort going, as the Russian force still wreaks havoc against the valiant defenders of the Ukrainian soil.


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