AFP chief denies navy ship driven away by China
October 11, 2023 | 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Reports that the China Coast Guard (CCG) was able to force or drive away a Philippine Navy vessel to leave Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) are untrue and “nothing but mere propaganda” originating from Beijing, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said yesterday.
And even if the CCG tries, Brawner said the military would not allow the Chinese vessels to force the Philippine Navy to leave its own territorial waters.
“That is just propaganda by the Chinese. It’s not true, there is no truth (to it),” Brawner said.
“If ever, if we have ships there… we will not (leave). That’s their report,” the AFP chief declared, noting that there is no Philippine Navy vessel in Panatag Shoal.
He said that upon verification, a Philippine Navy vessel did pass through the area to conduct maritime patrol operations at around 9:30 a.m.
The CCG, he shared, issued radio challenges to the Philippine vessel but the navy ship just continued with its mission without stopping or changing direction.
“We verified, we had a navy ship in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc but its mission is maritime patrol. The ship was moving and the Coast Guard of China (radio) challenged it,” Brawner said, emphasizing that China’s version of what happened was inaccurate.
“Our navy ship just continued because it was not being driven away, it was doing its mission, maritime patrol. It was not driven away, so our stand is that it is just propaganda of China. Still propaganda,” Brawner told reporters.
He added that a Philippine Navy ship will not leave the area if asked to by the Chinese Coast Guard because it is in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
He clarified that the Philippine Navy’s presence in the area is down south of Panatag Shoal and even when the Philippine Coast Guard removed China’s floating barriers, the Philippine Navy was not there.
Brawner believes that such propaganda is being used because China is concerned with its internal audience and wants to show that their leadership is doing something to look good.
Reaching hundreds of thousands of motorists and commuters daily, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilbert Teodoro is now making use of EDSA’s digital billboards to publicly declare the Philippine government’s firm effort to stand up against China’s bullying in the waters of the WPS.
“If we don’t stop (them), China is going to creep and creep into what is within our sovereign jurisdiction, our sovereign rights and within our territory,” his statement reads on large LED screens along EDSA.
Teodoro’s statement appears to have been lifted from his earlier pronouncements against China’s continuing presence, harassment and coercive behavior in the WPS where CCG and maritime militia vessels swarm and repeatedly try to block resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
In his Instagram account, the DND chief noted that the 2016 Arbitral Award by The Hague favored the Philippines in a maritime dispute case, with the verdict determining that “China lacked a legal foundation for asserting historical rights over the majority of the South China Sea.”
“Despite this ruling, Beijing has chosen to disregard it and persistently increase its influence in the region, a behavior that can be seen as an act of bullying,” he stressed. “We are determine to ensure this doesn’t occur, standing resolute and unwavering in our commitment to safeguard and preserve the integrity of our nation’s territory.”
Teodoro believes Filipinos are always willing to talk but such talks should be substantial and must have a rules-based basis.