Philippines-China relations

FACT CHECK: Filipinos opposed China’s reclamation even before Hague ruling

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FACT CHECK: Filipinos opposed China’s reclamation even before Hague ruling
Contrary to a statement by retired Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade, Filipinos have slammed China’s reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea as early as 2014

Claim: Filipinos who criticized former president Rodrigo Duterte for failing to enforce the historic 2016 ruling won by the Philippines against China’s expansive maritime claims had been silent back when China was just beginning its reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: Retired Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. made the claim in an interview on SMNI’s Pulso ng Bayan last October 25, 2021, portions of which were reuploaded in a Facebook video posted on August 6. The Facebook video has gained 180,000 views, 6,100 reactions, and 2,900 shares as of writing.

Parlade was making a comment about critics’ reaction to dolomite sand dumped at the Manila Baywalk, and took a jab at those who did not make similar protests when China was building artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III.

He went on to say: “‘Yan yung itsura ng mga island doon sa West Philippine Sea noong sinisimulan pa lang. Nasaan kayo? 2013, 2014. Nasaan itong mga kritiko na ito, di sila nagko-comment hanggang nabuo na yung isla na yun, apat yan tapos naging military bases na ng mga Intsik. 2016 noong nakumpleto at doon nagkaroon ng arbitral ruling, so ngayon sinisisi nila ang gobyerno, ang presidente, na di raw inaaksyunan ‘yung ruling na ‘yun.”

(That is how the islands looked in the West Philippine Sea when [construction] was just starting. Where were you [critics]? 2013, 2014. Where were these critics? They did not comment until these islands were built, four Chinese military bases were completed in 2016 and that was when the arbitral ruling was passed. Now, they are blaming the government, the president, because of inaction on the ruling.)

The bottom line: Filipinos have been vocal in opposing China’s island-building activities in the West Philippine Sea even during the early phases of construction, when news and photos of the reclamation projects were made public in 2014. Furthermore, it was in 2013 when the Philippines challenged China’s expansive maritime claims by filing a historic case with an international tribunal. (TIMELINE: The Philippines-China maritime dispute)

Protests vs China: Since 2014, hundreds of activists, leftist groups, and youth groups have staged various protests against China’s construction activities in the West Philippine Sea, according to VOA News, SCMP, and CNN Philippines reports. The groups called on China to stop undermining the Philippines’ sovereignty and denounced China’s encroachment on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Distrust of China amid the maritime dispute was also reflected in a June 2015 survey where Filipinos gave China “a record-low net trust rating of -45.” This was lower than the previous -36 rating Filipinos gave in June 2014 and May 2012, which was after the April 2012 standoff at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Similarly, a 2015 Gallup report showed that Filipinos’ disapproval of China’s leadership had increased since 2011.

The Philippine government has also filed several diplomatic protests over the reclamation activities, SCMP reported, while then-senator Antonio Trillanes IV sought a Senate probe into China’s activities. From 2016 until the present, over 300 diplomatic protests have been filed against China.

China’s reclamation: Since 2013, China has been reclaiming parts of the South China Sea to build military facilities as part of its maritime militia expansion in the region, reported. Rappler has previously published photos of China’s reclamation activities in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross Reef), Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef, and Mabini (Johnson) Reef. 

The reclamations have continued even after a 2016 Hague ruling that struck down China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. (READ: [ANALYSIS] The Arbitral Award: Not just a piece of paper)

Rappler has published several fact-checks regarding China’s occupation of the disputed territories in the WPS:

Kyle Marcelino/

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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