Philippines-China relations

China downplays envoy’s summoning over laser incident in West PH Sea

Sofia Tomacruz

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China downplays envoy’s summoning over laser incident in West PH Sea

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. summons Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Huang Xilian on February 14, 2023.

Presidential Communications Office

The Chinese embassy says Ambassador Huang Xilian 'met' with President Marcos on how to implement the 'consensus reached' during Marcos' bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping in January, and related issues

MANILA, Philippines – China has downplayed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s decision to summon Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian after the China Coast Guard (CCG) deployed a military-grade laser against the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement to media on Tuesday, February 14, China referred to Huang’s summoning as a mere meeting with Marcos.

“On February 14, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,” the embassy said.

It was the first time for Marcos to summon a foreign envoy since he assumed office on June 30, 2022. The move marked one of the highest levels of protest against a foreign government.

It was also the third time Huang was summoned by the Philippine government since he assumed his post in Manila in December 2019, with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) calling him to its headquarters twice, again over incidents related to the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese embassy said Marcos and Huang discussed how to implement “consensus reached” by Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting in Beijing, as well as ways to strengthen dialogue and “properly manage maritime differences between China and the Philippines.” 

Also present in Malacañang when Huang was summoned were Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, and Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin. 

The laser incident happened just over a month after Marcos’ state visit to China.

In filing a protest on Tuesday, the DFA pointed out that Marcos and Xi had agreed that the maritime dispute should be handled “through diplomacy and dialogue, without resorting to force and intimidation.” 

The DFA, in its strongly-worded protest, had called China’s recent actions as “acts of aggression.”

The CCG’s harassment of the BRP Malapascua near Ayungin Shoal was also “disturbing and disappointing,” following Marcos state visit to China in January, the DFA added.

The February 6 laser incident caused “temporary blindness” to the BRP Malapascua’s crew at her bridge and had been accompanied by unsafe maneuvers against the PCG ship.

The PCG earlier said it was the second time China used a laser against its ships, with the first taking place in June 2022 against the BRP Habagat tugboat.

The CCG’s harassment of the BRP Malapascua has also fueled international backlash, with the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, and Germany calling on Beijing to abide by the 2016 Hague Ruling that struck down China’s expansive nine-dash-line in the South China Sea as illegal.

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Manila has filed at least 75 diplomatic protests against Beijing under the Marcos government. –

1 comment

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  1. FB

    This report is inadequate. It does not describe any response from the Chinese ambassador. It’s we complained, they heard, period.
    It’s like Marcos just wants you to know he did “something” – like “protest.” So…???

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.