Teodoro says China should 'be truthful' as PH condemns recent aggression in WPS

By SUNDY LOCUS,GMA Integrated News

The Philippines on Wednesday condemned China’s reported aggressive and dangerous actions against Filipino ships on a routine resupply mission in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), describing it as “patently illegal and downright uncivilized”. 

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. told Beijing “to be truthful and to be believable”, adding the “propaganda mechanisms of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) once again attempt to justify their illegal acts” against Filipino vessels in the highly disputed territory.

“They take great pains to mischaracterize their provocations as lawful under international law and the actions of their CCG (Chinese Coast Guard) and Maritime Militia as ‘professional, restrained, reasonable, and lawful’,” Teodoro Jr. said in a press statement. 

On Tuesday, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said four Filipinos sustained injuries after two China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels water cannoned a Philippine boat on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

The injured Filipino personnel were treated by the crew of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Sindangan, which collided with one of the CCG vessels less than two hours earlier.

The world expresses concern

Several countries including the US, Japan and the European Union (EU) expressed concern over the incident, with Washington saying the dangerous maneuvers at the shoal "endangered lives, resulted in injuries, and damaged Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the Philippine exclusive economic zone."

"The United States stands with the Philippines and proponents of international law in support of a free and  open Indo-Pacific," US ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Loss Carlson said in a statement on X.

Meanwhile, the CCG, said it took control measures against Philippine vessels that illegally intruded into waters adjacent to Ren'ai Reef, also known as the Second Thomas Shoal or Ayungin Shoal.

In a subsequent statement, a CCG spokesperson asserted that the Philippines was responsible for the incident, saying the latter "ignored repeated warnings" from the China side.

“This claim is, simply put, one that no right-thinking state in the world agrees with and which many outright condemn. The PRC's vain attempt to manufacture and sell this story falters in the face of real incontrovertible facts,” said Teodoro.

“The acts of the PRC's agents in the West Philippine Sea are patently illegal and downright uncivilized.  We urge the PRC to be truthful and to be believable,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned China's deputy ambassador to protest the aggressive and dangerous moves undertaken by the CCG and Chinese Maritime Militia.


Resupply missions to continue

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP-WesCom) expressed disappointment over the incident but assured routine resupply (RORE) missions for the military detachment stationed at BRP Sierra  Madre will continue.

“I’m disappointed that happened kasi we were all looking forward to an unimpeded RORE. I have to bring food and water to the troops. Disappointed lang ako dahil may nagkasakitan. Pwede namang sigurong pag-usapan, to come up with a win-win situation through the proper channel,” Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, AFP WesCom Commander, told GMA Integrated News.

"(I’m disappointed with what happened because we were all looking forward to an unimpeded RORE. I have to bring food and water to the troops. I’m disappointed that some people were injured. This could’ve been solved through diplomacy. Through a win-win solution crafted through proper channels.)

“Hopefully nga hindi mag-escalate and in the next RORE…we will adjust our operation. But whether to RORE or not, no question ‘yan, we will do the rore. Kailangan natin, may tropa tayo dun,” he said.

(We hope this will not escalate. We will adjust our operation for the next resupply mission but if the question is to continue or not, we will continue it. We need to do this for our troops.)

The Philippines has repeatedly called out China over its repeated aggression in the WPS  including the ramming and firing of water cannons at Philippine vessels.

Tensions between China and the Philippines have heightened in recent months as both sides trade accusations over a series of incidents in the WPS.

China claims most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling issued by an international tribunal upheld the Philippines' 200 nautical mile Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ), outlawed Chinese aggression in the common fishing ground of Scarborough Shoal, and rejected China’s expansive nine-dash-line claim of the entire South China Sea, which the Philippines has re-named the West Philippine Sea.—RF, GMA Integrated News