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Philippines sends note verbale to China over Pag-asa incident

The Philippines has already sent a note verbale to China following the confrontation between Filipino and Chinese personnel near Pag-asa Island, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.

"Yes, a Note Verbale has been sent following the instruction of the President," DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza told reporters.

"As explained by the Secretary, the note seeks clarification from the Chinese side over the incident involving the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard in the vicinity of the waters of the Pag-asa Cays on 20 November 2022."

In a television interview earlier in the day, DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo said the agency has been studying the incident even before sending the note verbale to Beijing.

"Yes, in fact even before that, we are studying the incident," Manalo told CNN Philippines.

"The department has also taken action. We have issued a note verbale already seeking clarification from China on the incident."

Manalo also stressed that the Philippine government stands by the statement of its naval forces on the matter.

"We stand by the statement of the Vice Admiral, we are taking that into heart. That's why we have referred it in effect in the note verbale to China and we'd like to see how they reply," Manalo said.

"Now, depending on how their reply comes out, then we have to see what to do. In order to begin the process, we would like to get an official comment from China," he added.

Asked if the note verbale can already be considered as a diplomatic protest, Manalo said: "Well, technically it's a diplomatic note. We made it very clear that this is the report we have received and we'd like to seek clarification from China."

"They can take it whatever way they want but we hope they respond to us as soon as possible," Manalo added.

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said a note verbale must be sent to China to determine why the version of Chinese authorities of the incident in Pag-asa was different from that of Philippine authorities.

Marcos said this kind of incident is among the reasons why he is glad that he will go to China in January next year for a state visit.

On Sunday, the Philippines’ Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (NSEL) and the Chinese Coast Guard had a confrontation off Pag-asa Island after the latter “forcefully” took an unidentified floating object from the former.

The Chinese Embassy, however, denied that Chinese Coast Guard personnel forcefully retrieved the object, saying that it was done through "friendly consultation."

Meanwhile in a radio interview, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the US has expressed its concern regarding the confrontation that happened between Filipino and Chinese personnel near Pag-asa Island.

Interviewed on Super Radyo dzBB, Romualdez was asked about the Philippines’ coordination with the US government after the incident.

“Well, siyempre very concerned sila dahil nangyari ‘yan ngayon,” Romualdez said.

(Well, of course they are very concerned because that happened now.)

“Pero ang instructions ni Presidente na i-investigate nang mabuti at ang Navy ay nag-confirm na ginawa nga ito ng mga Chinese vessels,” he added. 

(But the President's instructions was to investigate it carefully and the Navy confirmed that it was indeed done by the Chinese vessels.) —Anna Felicia Bajo/KBK/RSJ, GMA Integrated News