Fact checks about countries

FACT CHECK: Ayungin Shoal not being turned into a military island


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FACT CHECK: Ayungin Shoal not being turned into a military island
Philippine lawmakers have been pushing to build only a structure, not a military island, on Ayungin Shoal, given the deteriorating state of the BRP Sierra Madre

Claim: The Philippines and the United States are turning Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) into a military island to deter Chinese maritime aggression.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in the title of a YouTube video: “Philippines & US Turn Second Thomas Shoal into Military Island in South China Sea to Deter Chinese.”

It was uploaded on December 18 by a channel with 66,500 subscribers and has 71,489 views and 905 likes as of writing. Similar claims can be found on other YouTube channels.

The bottom line: The Philippines is eyeing the construction of a structure in Ayungin Shoal, but there are no reports of plans to turn it into a military island, contrary to the video’s title. 

The video’s narrator discusses the proposal from lawmakers, but makes no mention of any widescale reclamation projects or militarization activities that would substantiate the claim made in the title.

New outpost in Ayungin Shoal: Lawmakers have been pushing to finance the construction of a permanent structure in Ayungin Shoal as China continues its acts of hostility in the West Philippine Sea in defiance of a 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of Manila.

On December 14, Senator Sonny Angara said funding has been allocated in the 2024 national budget to build a structure in the shoal for ships patrolling the West Philippine Sea. The misleading YouTube video claims US involvement in these proposals and cites a report from EurAsian Times, but the article made no mention of the US as a contributor to the structure, contrary to the claim.

There have been calls for a permanent structure in the shoal given the deteriorating condition of the BRP Sierra Madre, which was intentionally grounded by Manila in 1999 to serve as the country’s outpost. (EXPLAINER: Why China, the Philippines keep fighting over tiny shoal)

Improving defense capabilities: The video was posted following the back-to-back water cannon incidents involving Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Philippine ships earlier in December.

Amid rising tensions between Manila and Beijing, the Philippines has increased budget allocations for defense initiatives in the West Philippine Sea.

While reiterating the Philippines’ commitment to protect its sovereign claims, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government has been “very careful” in reacting to what he calls the “most complex geopolitical challenge that the world faces.”

Acknowledging “very little progress” in diplomatic efforts with China, Marcos said a “paradigm shift” is needed in dealing with increasing Chinese aggression.

Rappler has already published several fact-checks about Ayungin Shoal:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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