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DFA asks China: Explain Pag-asa Island incident

by Malou Talosig-Bartolome

SHORT of filing a diplomatic protest, Manila has merely asked Beijing to “explain” the incident involving the crew of Philippine Navy and Chinese Coast Guard off Pag-asa Island in the disputed West Philippine Sea last Sunday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said a diplomatic correspondence has been sent to the Chinese Embassy in Manila. He insisted though that his department “stands by” the report of Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of the Armed Forces Western Command that has jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea.

Carlos reported that the Chinese Coast “forcefully” took the rocket debris from the Philippine Navy on the way to Pag-asa Island. The Navy personnel retrieved the rocket debris near the cay off Pag-asa Island.

“We stand by the statement of the Vice Admiral. We are taking that to heart. That’s why we have referred it to our note verbale to China. And we’d like to see how they would reply,” Manalo said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

A note verbale is a diplomatic letter of one sovereign state to another. In some instances, diplomatic protests are also contained in notes verbale. In this case, it’s just a clarificatory note.

DFA officials explained that before filing a diplomatic protest, they would need to get the official side of the Chinese government on the incident. So far, they said, the only narrative they got from China are reports from the media based in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing that contrary to reports, only a “friendly consultation” ensued between the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard off Pag-asa Island.

“Now, depending on how the reply comes out,” Manalo explained, “then we will see what to do. But definitely before we begin the process, we have to receive an official comment from China especially in response to our note verbale.” 

However, the DFA did not ask China to clarify on the series of explosions that occurred minutes after the confrontation. Pag-asa residents said they heard a series of explosions that felt like the “earth was shaking.” 

A Pag-asa local executive also said a Chinese Coast Guard and 36 Chinese militia boats are seen near the Pag-asa Island. The video was captured by one of the residents and sent to republicasia‘s Palawan correspondent, Ruth Rodriguez.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos is scheduled to fly to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping early January. Last September, he met US President Joe Biden and hosted the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris last Monday. 

Banner photo courtesy: Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York FB page

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