Marcos Jr. administration

Marcos summons China envoy over laser incident

Sofia Tomacruz

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Marcos summons China envoy over laser incident

SUMMON. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian in Malacanang.

Presidential Communications Office

(2nd UPDATE) This is the first time a Philippine leader summoned a Chinese ambassador in recent years, with Rodrigo Duterte refusing to do this in his six years in office

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday, February 14, summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian after China deployed a military-grade laser against the Philippine Coast Guard.

In diplomacy, for a head of state – not merely a foreign secretary – to summon an ambassador constitutes one of the highest levels of protest against a foreign government. 

“The President summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian this afternoon to express his serious concern over the increasing frequency and intensity of actions by China against the Philippine Coast Guard and our Filipino fishermen in their bancas, the latest of which was the deployment of a military grade laser against our Coast Guard vessels,” Malacañang said in a statement on Tuesday.

This is the third time Huang was summoned by Manila since April 2021. In two previous instances, it was the Department of Foreign Affairs which called him to its headquarters.

This is also the first time a Philippine president summoned a Chinese ambassador in recent years. Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, did not summon Chinese ambassadors in all of his six years in office, despite calls for him to do this especially when a Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat in 2019.

Marcos’ decision to summon Huang comes a day after the Philippine Coast Guard disclosed that the China Coast Guard had used a military-grade laser against the BRP Malapascua near Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The incident, which took place last February 6, caused “temporary blindness to her crew at the bridge,” and had been accompanied by unsafe maneuvers against the PCG ship.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said a diplomatic protest was filed against China for its “acts of aggression” against the PCG in the West Philippine Sea.

The escalation in tensions comes just after Marcos completed a state visit to China in early January. The 48-hour trip yielded an agreement to set up a direct communication line between the DFA’s  Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office and the Chinese foreign ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs to manage tensions in the volatile waterway.

It also follows Marcos’ recent official visit to Japan, where he and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to deepen defense ties as part of efforts to bolster security in the region. Like Manila, Tokyo has faced China’s assertive tactics in the East China Sea, where it is locked in a maritime dispute with Beijing. 

In his first State of the Nation Address, Marcos earlier vowed to keep a policy of being a “friend to all and enemy to none,” but underscored that his government will not give up “even a single square inch of Philippine territory” to any foreign power. 

Under the Marcos government, Manila has filed at least 75 diplomatic protests against Beijing. 

China’s deploying of a military-grade laser against the PCG was among the few incidents to be documented and used a proof of China’s use of lasers against foreign ships and planes. In February last year, Australia accused Beijing of an ‘act of intimidation’ after a Chinese navy vessel directed a laser at an Australian military surveillance aircraft. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

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