West Philippine Sea

China didn’t pick up phone during water cannon incident in West Philippine Sea – DFA

Bea Cupin

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China didn’t pick up phone during water cannon incident in West Philippine Sea – DFA

CHINA'S WATER CANNON. A release from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows a China Coast Guard vessel pointing its water cannon toward a PCG boat.

Philippine Coast Guard

The Department of Foreign Affairs, in its protest, asks China to 'reciprocate with the same sense of urgency' that Manila shows when Beijing calls

MANILA, Philippines – Even after several months of statements and interviews hyping communication mechanisms to avoid “mishaps” in the West Philippine Sea, when it mattered the most on August 5, Beijing wasn’t there to answer the call.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in its note verbale or formal protest over an August 5 blocking and water cannoning incident in the South China Sea, “expressed disappointment” over not being able to reach its Chinese counterpart right away.

“The Philippines, through the DFA, also expressed disappointment that the DFA was unable to reach its counterpart to the maritime communication mechanism for several hours while the incident was occurring,” said DFA Spokesperson Teresita Daza in a rare joint press conference on Monday, August 7.

Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian was summoned by Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro Monday morning or two days after China Coast Guard and Chinese militia ships tailed, blocked, then directed water cannons toward Philippine ships en route to Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission.

Footage from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines showed Chinese ships blocking or sailing dangerously close to smaller, more vulnerable Philippine ships. PCG Spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said the Chinese boats’ intention was to separate the Armed Forces of the Philippines-commissioned vessels carrying supplies from the PCG boats that served as their escorts.

The Chinese vessels were relentless in blocking the PCG boat and the commissioned “indigenous” boat, preventing half of the supplies from reaching Ayungin Shoal, where a grounded warship serves as the Philippines’ outpost in the West Philippine Sea.

Manila also “expressed the hope that the Chinese side will reciprocate with the same sense of urgency the communication initiated by the Philippines as has been demonstrated by the Philippines when receiving communications initiated by the Chinese side,” said Daza.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself pushed for the creation of a “direct communication line” between the foreign ministries of Manila and Beijing to avoid “miscalculations” in the West Philippine Sea. But in May 2023, ahead of a trip to Washington DC and after a near-collision between the Philippine Coast Guard and the China Coast Guard, Marcos said China had yet to finalize their side of the communications mechanism.

Even as Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a “new golden age” in bilateral ties, Beijing has not let up in its aggressive moves in the South China Sea, including in areas part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The August 5 incident is also not the first time China has harassed Philippine ships. In February 2023, barely a month after visiting Xi in Beijing, Marcos summoned Huang over a laser-pointing incident in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard has also reported incidents of blockages, harassment, and near collisions in the months since.

The Philippines has filed 35 protests against China in 2023, according to the DFA. – Rappler.com


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  1. ET

    This action speaks how the Chinese Government look at the Philippine Government in terms of the latter’s stature as a Nation. The former considers the latter as lower in stature. Hence, from the point of view of China – the Philippine Government deserve Beijing’s failure to answer such call. Anyway, with lots of Philippine Government officials who are pro-China (either openly or secretly) including one who joked of the Philippines as a Province of China, such treatment is, sadly, justifiable.

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.