President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said the Philippine government would send a note verbale to China to clarify the conflicting statements by the China Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy in light of the recent incident near Pag-asa Island.
“Yes, I think that that’s what we need to do because … When it was first reported to me by the Chief of Staff, I asked him to immediately call the Philippine, the military attaché in the Chinese embassy and to get a report,” Marcos told reporters in a chance interview in Pasay City..
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command on Monday confirmed a report from Naval Station Emilio Liwanag that a large piece of metal debris floating about 800 yards West off Pag-asa Island was “forcibly” taken by the Chinese Coast Guard.
WestCom said the debris—suspected to be part of a satellite rocket earlier launched by the Chinese—was discovered through a long-range camera.
The President noted that are “contradictions” between the report from the Philippine Navy and China Coast Guard about the incident.
“The report of the Philippine Navy and that from China does not match because the word ‘forcibly’ was used in the Navy – in the Philippine Navy report. And that was not the characterization in the Chinese Navy report or the report coming from China. So, we have to resolve this issue,” he said.
Marcos said he has “complete trust” in the Philippine Navy and believes its report. He also said he would like to know why China’s version of the events was “so different and much more benign.”
“So, we’ll have to find a way to resolve this,” he said.
He is glad he is going to Beijing in January as there are things that needed to be worked out between the two countries, he said.
“Because with the way that the region, our region, Asia-Pacific, is heating up, because there may be a mistake, and there will be misunderstanding, which could make the situation worse,” he added.
Marcos also said he does not want to exacerbate the situation, adding that he “wants to have a mechanism to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.”
In an earlier radio interview, National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos said she recommended to the President to send a note verbale to China regarding the incident.
“We can tell them that this incident happened after Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed that they would focus on constructive engagement and critical dialogue,” Carlos said.
Xi and Marcos met for the first time for a bilateral meeting in Bangkok, Thailand last week on the sidelines of APEC SUMMIT 2022. The two did not meet in Cambodia.
Carlos is hopeful that the Chinese government would understand that the Philippine government ultimately wanted to safeguard its territory and people.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has claimed that the Chinese Coast Guard did not forcefully seize the floating objects but was done through “friendly consultation.”
Photo credit: CSIS AMTI