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Claim: China has removed from Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) BRP Sierra Madre, the warship serving as the Philippines’ outpost in the West Philippine Sea. In response, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is preparing to attack China.
Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in the title of a YouTube video, which has gained 18,522 views and 710 likes as of writing.
The video’s title says: “CHINA HINILA NA BRP SIERRA MADRE! GRABE PRES BBM! AFP LALABAN NA SA CHINA! HINDI ISUSUKO ANG AYUNGIN”
(China has pulled BRP Sierra Madre! Wow, President BBM! AFP will finally fight against China! Ayungin will not be surrendered!)
The video was uploaded by a channel with 341,000 subscribers on August 15, several days after Chinese vessels harassed Philippine ships en route to the BRP Sierra Madre for a routine resupply mission.
The bottom line: Despite China’s insistence for the Philippines to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal – citing a supposed agreement – the Asian superpower has not taken any actions to move or tow away the stranded warship from its location as of writing.
The AFP has promised to resist any attempts to remove the ship, but there is no mention of a planned attack on China.
Status of BRP Sierra Madre: China has demanded the removal of BRP Sierra Madre following the August 5 incident where Chinese coast guard ships blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine vessels heading to Ayungin Shoal.
Marcos denied any agreement to remove the grounded vessel from Philippine territory, adding, “If there does exist such an agreement, I rescind that agreement as of now.”
National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya also denied China’s claim, saying the Philippines will “never enter into any agreement abandoning its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Ayungin Shoal,” CNN Philippines reported.
BRP Sierra Madre, formerly USS Harnett County, is a World War II-era ship that was deliberately run aground on Ayungin Shoal in 1999. Though no longer seaworthy, it serves as the Philippines’ outpost in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: [OPINION] BRP Sierra Madre: Our last stand?)
AFP’s response: Contrary to the claim in the video’s title, the AFP only said that it would resist attempts to tow away the ship, not conduct an attack on China.
During the Saturday News Forum on August 12, AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar said that there are “rules of engagement on what to do in situations like this.”
“It may be an act already that may be considered as hostile. But I will leave it to the experts,” he added.
China claims Ayungin Shoal as part of its territory, but the 2016 Hague ruling recognized it as a low-tide feature forming part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. (READ: Why Marcos is wrong about ‘gray area’ in Ayungin Shoal)
Despite the arbitral ruling striking down China’s expansive maritime claims, Beijing insists it is invalid and continues its incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Rappler has published several fact-checks related to maritime tensions between the Philippines and China:
- FACT CHECK: US not involved in water cannon incident in West Philippine Sea
- FACT CHECK: No reports of PH warship destroying Chinese vessel
- FACT CHECK: No reports of EU ship attacking China in 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.
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