AFP urges China to restrain forces after laser-pointing incident in Ayungin Shoal
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday called on the Chinese government to control its forces after a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) reportedly pointed a military-grade laser light at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship.
“The Secretary of National Defense has already declared or said that the act committed by the Coast Guard of China is offensive and unsafe,” AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar told reporters.
“Therefore, I think it is time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative act that will endanger [the] lives of people,” he added.
According to Aguilar, this was the first time that the CCG directed a laser light at a PCG ship.
Asked about a possible escalation, Aguilar said, "No, hindi dapat mag-escalate."
(It should not escalate).
The PCG on Monday accused a CCG vessel of pointing a "military-grade" laser light at one of its vessels supporting a military rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.
According to the PCG, the Chinese vessel with bow number 5205 directed a laser light at PCG vessel BRP Malapascua during a February 6 rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy.
"As BRP Malapascua reached a 10nm distance from Ayungin Shoal, the CCG vessel was monitored approximately 4nm of the ship's dead ahead maneuvering from the portside heading starboard side," the PCG said.
The Chinese ship then "illuminated the green laser light twice" toward the BRP Malapascua, the PCG said, adding that the light caused "temporary blindness" to the BRP Malapascua's crew at the bridge.
"The Chinese vessel also made dangerous maneuvers by approaching about 150 yards from the vessel's starboard quarter," the PCG also said.
In a text message to reporters, Senator JV Ejercito emphasized the need to form an alliance with the United States, Japan, Australia and other Southeast Asian nations to stop China's aggression in the region.
"Sobra na ang China Coast Guard na yan! Yan lang masasabi ko Kahit anong diplomatic protest 'di naman pinakikinggan ng China," Ejercito said.
[The Chinese Coast Guard is too much! China doesn't listen to our diplomatic protests.]
But for Senator Joel Villanueva, the Philippines should continue the filing of diplomatic protests.
"My position has been consistent with what we have been saying here and on the floor that we should continue filing diplomatic protest, kung di to nawawalan ng kabuluhan. Ang importante mapaigting ito at higit sa lahat maipakita natin sa mundo na 'di tayo dapat bullyhin ng kahit sinomang bansa," he said in an interview.
Earlier in a statement, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said this incident should warrant a penalty.
"Tensions are already high, but what is China doing instead? She is only getting more brazen by the day. Her shameless harassment, causing temporary blindness to Filipino crew members, should warrant a penalty," Hontiveros said.
Meanwhile, defense analyst and military historian Jose Antonio Custodio said that while the laser was non-lethal, China’s act remains prohibited.
“Hindi ‘yun kagaya ng Star Wars or Star Trek na mga laser na destroying like cannons or guns. This one different type, its not of that level... It falls under mga non-lethal weapon categories designed to disrupt or incapacitate,” said Custodio in Maki Pulido’s report on “24 Oras”.
(It’s not like the ones in Star Wars or Star Trek that can destroy. This one’s a different type. It can be considered a non-lethal weapon designed to disrupt or incapacitate.)
“You’re not supposed to disrupt a peaceful passage of any vessel kasi it can lead to accidents. So what the Chinese is doing [is] very dangerous,” he said.
This is not the first time China used a military-grade laser. In 2022, Australia called out Beijing after one of its ships pointed a laser towards their surveillance aircraft which was inside their exclusive economic zone.
Analysts said it can be ruled as a “hostile act” as lasers are used when targeting enemies.
For his part, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the CCG pointed the laser against the PCG after the latter encroached on Second Thomas Shoal, which is part of Beijing’s territorial waters in the South China Sea (SCS).
Wenbin also said the move was in accordance with domestic and international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which are aimed at protecting their sovereignty and maritime order.
Beijing hopes Manila would respect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the SCS and would refrain from taking any actions that may worsen the situation, the report said.
The two countries are currently communicating through diplomatic channels, Wenbin said.
GMA Integrated News reached out to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy for their comments but have yet to respond as of posting.—Joviland Rita, Hana Bordey, Sundy Locus /VAL/RSJ, GMA Integrated News