Philippine Navy man who lost thumb recounts China aggression at Ayungin Shoal

Seaman First Class Jeffrey Facundo said he lost his finger after China’s RHIB collided with the vessel he was boarding.

Charie Abarca

Charie Abarca

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Seaman First Class Jeffrey Facundo of the Philippine Navy relates at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, how his boat was rammed by the Chinese Coast Guard. PHOTO: SENATE PUBLIC RELATIONS AND INFORMATION BUREAU/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

June 26, 2024

MANILA – Seaman First Class Jeffrey Facundo, the Navy sailor whose thumb was cut off after a botched resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal on June 17, recounted China’s aggression, detailing that Chinese personnel seized their guns and threw corals at Filipino marines stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.

It was the first time that Facundo spoke publicly about the incident on Tuesday — at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“We had been there for about five minutes at the [BRP] Sierra Madre when suddenly Chinese RHIB [rigid hull inflatable boat] arrived. I’m not sure if it’s their Coast Guard. And then what happened when after they arrived, without any warning, they just rammed us,” Facundo said in Filipino.

“They came near us and just rammed us. That’s it. I saw that one of them was carrying what looked like an ax, but the others were carrying long poles with sharp ends,” he added.

The Filipino sailor said he lost his finger after China’s RHIB collided with the vessel he was boarding.

“There were three of us at the front. I was on the left side. Now, our enemy’s RHIB was on the left. It went over our RHIB. On hitting us, I lost my balance and fell down,” he said.

Guns seized

According to Facundo, the Chinese seized their guns.

Sen. Imee Marcos, who was presiding over the hearing as panel chair, asked why they were equipped with guns.

“We were advised to bring guns, but they were hidden. We were supposed to replace some troops at BRP Sierra Madre,” Facundo said.

“We were reminded that, under the rules of engagement, we would only fire guns if they first fired at us,” he emphasized.

While not entirely certain, Facundo said the Chinese crew might have seized seven of their guns.

Attacked by corals

But the aggression did not stop there. Not known to many, Facundo said the Chinese threw corals at the Filipino troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.

“They punctured your boat, but did they destroy anything at the BRP Sierra Madre?” Marcos asked in Filipino.

“They just threw corals, ma’am. They threw corals at the people on top of BRP Sierra Madre,” he said.

Not an accident

Facundo emphasized that the June 17 event was not an accident.

“It could not be called an accident. The ramming was intentional — including the puncturing and destruction [of the boast]. They didn’t want us to complete the resupplying, and they didn’t want us to board [ the BRP Sierra Madre],” he said, adding that the Chinese also hampered their medical evacuation on June 17.

China’s continued aggression in Philippine waters is borne out of a sweeping claim over most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

But China’s claim was in effect dismissed in a 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines.

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