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FACT CHECK: No arrest order vs China over coral reef damage


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FACT CHECK: No arrest order vs China over coral reef damage
The Philippines earlier mulled bringing China to the Hague over the damage to coral reefs within Philippine territory, but no arrest order has been made, contrary to a video’s claim

Claim: The Philippines has ordered the arrest of Chinese officials responsible for the destruction of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a YouTube video posted on March 24 by a channel notorious for posting dubious claims on the West Philippine Sea. As of writing, it has gained 249,702 views, 2,300 likes, and 1,509 comments.

The video’s thumbnail shows President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. seemingly holding up a document implied to be an arrest order. The thumbnail included the text “PBBM pinaaresto na!” (PBBM has ordered an arrest!)

The video says China has caused a death, seemingly referring to the destruction of coral reefs within Philippine territory. The video was uploaded after Filipino scientists conducted a marine research mission at Pag-asa Cays 1 and 2 on March 21. 

The bottom line: There are no official announcements or reports from the Office of the President regarding any supposed arrest order against Chinese officials. 

On March 25, the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chinese embassy’s charge d’affaires to file a formal protest – not order an arrest – over a separate incident: the China Coast Guard’s “aggressive actions” against Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal on March 23.

Coral destruction: On March 21, a contingent of Filipino scientists conducted four hours of “extensive coral reef and fishery resources assessment” at Pag-asa Cays 1 and 2, with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) noting that they found “no diversity” in the coral reefs.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the visit was successful despite “intimidation tactics” by China.

In September 2023, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it suspected China of illegally harvesting corals in the Rozul Reef in the West Philippine Sea. The PCG also reported extensive coral reef damage in areas frequented by Chinese maritime militia. These prompted the Office of the Solicitor General to consider filing a complaint against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague.

According to the Coral Reef Alliance, coral reef diversity is critical to ensure the marine ecosystem is suitable for many animals and plants.


PH ‘countermeasure’: Amid China’s ongoing acts of hostility in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines continues to assert the 2016 arbitral ruling that strikes down China’s sweeping maritime claims.

Marcos also vowed to form “countermeasures” to address the increasing tension in the region. On March 31, the President signed Executive Order 57 which reorganizes several agencies to strengthen the country’s maritime security. (READ: What is EO 57, which bolsters PH maritime security amid China’s bullying?)

The Philippines has already lodged more than 200 formal complaints against China regarding its actions in the West Philippine Sea. Meanwhile, China warned the Philippines against straying into a “dangerous path” of escalating tensions in the region. (READ: [ANALYSIS] China’s increased coercive activities in the WPS: Recalibrating the PH’s security response)

Rappler has already published multiple fact-checks involving the channel Boss Balita TV over erroneous claims regarding the situation in the West Philippine Sea:

– 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. You may also report dubious claims to the #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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