Fact checks on militaries

FACT CHECK: China has not sent fighter jets to West PH Sea


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FACT CHECK: China has not sent fighter jets to West PH Sea
There are no official announcements from the Philippines’ defense department about the alleged threat

Claim: China has sent fighter jets to the West Philippine Sea following recent tensions between Philippine and Chinese vessels.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a YouTube video posted on March 9 that has 38,668 views and 455 likes as of writing.

The video is titled: “Breaking news! China, nagpadala na ng fighter jets sa West PH Sea! Umaatake na! Simula na ang WW3.” (Breaking news! China has deployed fighter jets to the West Philippine Sea! It is now attacking! [World War 3] has started!) 

The claim comes as tensions between Manila and Beijing have been rekindled due to continuing Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

The bottom line: No reputable sources have reported on China’s alleged deployment of fighter jets to the West Philippine Sea. There have been no reports from the Philippine Navy via their official Facebook page, X (formerly Twitter) page, and website, nor from the Department of National Defense about the claim.

Outdated report: The misleading video featured photos of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. accompanied by audio from a news report. The report discussed senators’ concerns over an alleged threat of war made by Chinese President Xi Jinping if the Philippines continued to insist on the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea.

The video made it seem as if the alleged threat was made recently, but a closer listen to the audio shows that it made references to former senator Bam Aquino and former president Rodrigo Duterte. The original audio came from a UNTV news report from May 22, 2017.

Current tensions: The claim was posted amid ongoing tensions between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea. On March 5, four Filipinos onboard the Unaizah Mae 4 sustained “minor injuries” after two China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels used water cannons against the Philippine vessel. The water cannons also shattered the boat’s windshield.

In a separate incident, a CCG vessel collided with the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Sindangan during the latest resupply mission to the grounded ship BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippines’ outpost in Ayungin Shoal. 

“Throughout the operation, the PCG vessels faced dangerous maneuvers and blocking from Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Chinese Maritime Militia. Their reckless and illegal actions led to a collision between MRRV-4407 and China Coast Guard 21555 that resulted [in] minor structural damage to the PCG vessel,” PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Chinese jets spotted: In November 2023, two Chinese fighter jets were seen hovering above Philippine planes during a joint air patrol between the Philippines and Australia in the West Philippine Sea. 

Chinese vessels also shadowed Philippine and Australian ships during joint maritime patrols in the area, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Katarina Ruflo/Rappler.com

Katarina Ruflo 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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