Fact checks on public officials

FACT CHECK: PCG spox did not declare ‘all-out war’ vs China over West PH Sea


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FACT CHECK: PCG spox did not declare ‘all-out war’ vs China over West PH Sea
The Philippine Coast Guard said it would continue its strategy of ‘assertive transparency’ on the actions of the Chinese government in the West Philippine Sea

Claim: Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela declared all-out war on China over tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in the title and thumbnail of a YouTube video posted on February 16. As of writing, it has gained 25,117 views, 560 likes, and 139 comments.

The video’s title reads: “Nag panic na China! PBBM nagulat kay Tarriela! Nagdeklara all out war sa China! PCG nagmatigas na!” (China is panicking! PBBM is surprised by Tarriela! Declares an all-out war on China! PCG stands firm.)

The bottom line: Neither Tarriela nor the PCG have made such declarations of war. The narrator of the misleading video merely suggested that the Philippines would not back down in the face of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

Transparency strategy: On February 13, Tarriela said that the PCG would continue with its strategy of “assertive transparency,” where the PCG publicizes China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea to counter the Chinese government’s “misinformation campaign.” 

He added that this strategy is not affected by a de-escalation agreement between China and the Philippines as transparency is “not something that is provocative or escalatory.” 

During a bilateral meeting in Shanghai last January 17, the two countries agreed to “improve [a] maritime communication mechanism in the South China Sea.” This mechanism would include “communications between foreign ministries and coast guards of the two countries,” according to the Philippines’ foreign affairs department. 

Maritime tensions: The agreement between Manila and Beijing comes amid ongoing maritime tensions between the two countries as China continues to reject a historic 2016 ruling invalidating its sweeping claims over the South China Sea. Over the past year, the PCG has documented several incidents of collisions, near-collisions, and dangerous maneuvers from Chinese vessels.

In December 2023, China’s maritime forces blasted water cannons at Filipino ships. A month earlier, Chinese ships also deployed water cannons and attempted to block vessels on a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippines’ outpost on Ayungin Shoal. Earlier this month, the PCG vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua completed a nine-day patrol at Bajo De Masinloc, during which the PCG reported the presence of four Chinese Coast Guard vessels that “shadowed the PCG vessel on more than 40 occasions” and “performed dangerous and blocking maneuvers at sea.” Andrei Santos/Rappler.com

Andrei Santos 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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