MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government said on Monday, February 6, that several agencies were still verifying details of a reported incident where at least two Chinese vessels tried to intercept a patrol mission by Philippine Navy vessel BRP Andres Bonifacio in the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement on Monday, the Philippine Coast Guard reported that “the said incident report is unverified.”
“The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) clarifies an incident report regarding an alleged intercept course between Philippine Navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio and two Chinese vessels in the vicinity waters off the West Philippine Sea on Saturday, 04 February 2023,” it said.
The PCG’s latest statement backtracked from an earlier release where it told media that four Chinese vessels – specifically two maritime militia ships and two China Coast Guard ships – “monitored and tailed” the BRP Andres Bonifacio near Mischief Reef, an underwater feature that Beijing has reclaimed to host a runway and a missile system, among other structures that neighbors are protesting.
At the time, the PCG said that Chinese ships “even conducted an intercept course towards the Philippine Navy warship,” though it did not interfere with its search and patrol mission.
“Upon verification, the PCG confirmed that the said incident report originated from a tweet of American Defense and Security Expert, Mr. Ray Powell,” the PCG said on Monday.
“Hence, as of 06 February 2023, the PCG communicates that the said incident report is unverified,” it added.
On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs also said it was awaiting verification on the incident.
Powell, a retired US Air Force officer, earlier shared details of the incident which spanned from Tuesday, January 31, to Friday, February 3. In a series of tweets, he documented the movement of Chinese ships which appeared to respond to patrols carried out by the Philippine Navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio and PCG’s BRP Malapascua.
Powell now leads Project Myoushu (South China Sea) at the at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation in Stanford University. The project seeks to track China’s gray zone activities in the South China Sea.
Like other Southeast Asian claimant states, the Philippines remained locked in a dispute with China in the South China Sea. Despite an international ruling affirming the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea, China continued to assert its claims with Chinese ships patrolling Philippine waters almost daily in the last year.
The Philippines, under the Marcos administration has so far filed at least 68 diplomatic protests against China over its incursions in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com
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