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Coast Guard warns vs. ‘pro-China’ misinformation spread by Filipinos

Rey E. Requejo & Vince Lopez

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman for the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Commodore Jay Tarriela, on Monday warned against “pro-China narratives” being spread by some groups to divert attention from Beijing’s aggression.

In a statement posted on the X social media platform, Tarriela cited three “claims, arguments and accusations” being used by individuals who claim to be pro-Filipino “while promoting Chinese narratives and even contradicting factual reports from Philippine authorities.”

He said the first claim is that speaking up against China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea will lead us into a war.

“FACT: Exposing China’s aggression is not inciting war. By keeping our political leaders and countrymen aware of China’s violations of international law, we are safeguarding our country from political manipulation and disinformation,” Tarriela said.

“Also, by calling out China’s bad behavior at sea, we highlight which party is really responsible for raising tensions and increasing the likelihood of a kinetic conflict,” the PCG official added.

Tarriela said that the second argument used by “pro-China” persons is that the Philippines’ transparency about Chinese aggression in the West Philippine is “solely influenced by the United States.”

The PCG-WPS spokesman said the government’s transparency efforts “are driven by our own national interest–the protection of the Philippines’ maritime rights.”

“The Philippine Coast Guard and other government agencies are utilizing their own resources to document and monitor Beijing’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea. For instance, the PCG has chosen to embed Filipino news journalists to ensure accurate and unbiased reporting of the events they witness,” he said.

“The PCG does not have editorial control over what these journalists report. Our dedication to transparency is independent of any external influence, and we prioritize the dissemination of factual information to the public.”

Finally, he said pro-China individuals are accusing those who are critical of China of being “anti-Filipino and pro-US.”

The PCG official said experts and government officials who are critical of China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea are driven by their dedication to the Philippines.”

“Their arguments are rooted in international law, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Philippine Constitution. These individuals take principled positions based on defending our national interests,” he said.

The National Security Council (NSC) earlier said it is monitoring influencers and groups who tend to echo China’s sentiments on the West Philippine Sea.

“We’ve noticed influencers and certain organizations and we’re monitoring them,” Malaya said in a radio interview, speaking in Filipino.

“They’ve organized forums and in these forums, it’s very obvious they are following China’s script. Whatever China’s foreign minister says, they will also say,” Malaya added.

In his statement, Tarriela said the pro-China people were echoing the narrative that the South China Sea dispute was solely between the US and China, disregarding “the agency of claimant states and the importance of defending our maritime rights based on international law.”

“Their intention is to manipulate public opinion and divert attention from the issue of Chinese aggression. Their strategy revolves around discrediting both the message and the messenger,” Tarriela said.

“Ultimately, their proposed solutions amount to accommodating China’s unreasonable and illegal claims, rather than seeking fair and just resolutions that safeguard our national interests,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice said its “suggestion to use Sea of Asia for what is the West Philippine Sea” will make the case the Philippines will file against China for the degradation of maritime resources more “relevant to the international community.”

“This is in no way an indication of the Philippines diluting or weakening its territorial claims or stance. The suggestion is confined only to this case,” DOJ Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano told Manila Standard.

He said the primary consideration in suggesting to use the term “Sea of Asia” is to engage the international community in a way that transcends territorial disputes.

“By calling it the “Sea of Asia”, we hope to underscore the point that this sea, regardless of the territorial claims and disputes, is a shared heritage and resource for all of Asia, and by extension, the world,” Clavano said.

“The spotlight here is not on the ongoing China vs Philippines territorial dispute. Instead, we are choosing to focus on the more pressing issue at hand: the environmental degradation and destruction by China of the waters around Asia,” Clavano said.

“By adopting this term for this specific case, we aim to rally the international community against harmful environmental actions, emphasizing that no matter who claims ownership, the responsibility to protect and preserve it is a shared one,” Clavano said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier said that China should be held answerable for the “innumerable and immeasurable” damage it has inflicted on the Philippine environment.

Remulla made the statement even as he revealed the administration’s decision to proceed with the filing of an environmental case against Beijing before an international tribunal.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said he personally prefers using “West Philippine Sea” over the proposed “Sea of Asia” for the sake of clarity in territorial rights.

Also on Tuesday, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said the country has the right to patrol all parts of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), including Bajo De Masinloc (also known as Scarborough Shoal), as this area is well within the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This was in reaction to China’s claims that it had blocked and prevented a Filipino warship, the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), from “trespassing” into the waters of Huangyan Island (the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal) on Oct. 30.

“Under international law, the Philippines has every right to patrol the length and breadth of the WPS which necessarily includes Bajo De Masinloc, which is well within the country’s EEZ,” Año said in a statement.

He added that the BRP Conrado Yap conducted routine patrol operations in the general vicinity of Bajo De Masinloc without any untoward incident.

“It did not illegally enter any space under Chinese sovereignty because Bajo De Masinloc is part of the Philippine archipelago and EEZ. Chinese vessels, as usual, conducted shadowing on the movement of PS-39,” he added.

Año emphasized that China was again hyping this incident and creating unnecessary tensions between the two countries.

“Nonetheless, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) will not be deterred by the aggressive and illegal activities of PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy/China Coast Guard/Militia in the WPS,” he noted.

Año urged China to act responsibly, respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, adhere to the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, promote the rules-based international order, and stop its aggressive and illegal actions in Philippine waters.

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