Thursday, April 3, 2014
Vinatge Ship Fragile Symbol of Philippines Claim to Ayungin
1st Lt. Pelotera along with his fellow Marines stationed at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal the past 5 months arrives at the naval base in Palawan the other day. On board the crumbling carcass of this WW2 era warship Pilipino Marine 1st Lt. Pelotera and his men make their way to a mid level deck to raise up the Philippine flag up a leaning pole and then salute it. Across the calm turquoise waters Chinese Coast Guard ships lurk looking on. It's hull riddled with holes and rust the BRP Sierra Madre has become a fragile symbol of the Philippines claim to Second Thomas an 8 Km long submerged coral outcrop that has been disputed by China and the Philippines for years. It's a lonely ship where Pelotera and his team wage a daily battle against isolation. The Philippine Navy inherited the former US Tank Landing Ship USS Harnett County in 1976 and ran it deliberately aground at Second Thomas Shoal in 1999. A Chinese frigate and maritime surveillance ships arrived last year to press China's claim to the shoal, which is believed to be sitting atop undersea oil and gas reserves. The move was an example of China's increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea something that's alarming the US, Manila's longtime ally.
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