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FACT CHECK: No firm plans yet for multi-nation patrol in West PH Sea

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FACT CHECK: No firm plans yet for multi-nation patrol in West PH Sea
The Armed Forces of the Philippines mentions the possibility of multilateral patrols with other allies, but no plans or agreements have been formalized as of writing

Claim: The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is readying multinational patrols in the West Philippine Sea to counter continued Chinese aggression.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook reel was posted on January 3 by a page with 4,100 followers and has 1,500 likes and 1,600 shares as of writing.

The narrator said: “China, kabahan ka na. Multi-nation patrols naka-umang na para labanan ang walang katwiran mong pag-okupa sa West Philippine Sea.”

(China, beware. Multi-nation patrols are poised to fight your unjustified occupation of the West Philippine Sea.)

The reel was posted on the same day that the Philippines and the United States began their second joint maritime cooperative activity in the West Philippine Sea.

The bottom line: Contrary to the video’s claim that the multi-nation patrols are already poised to be held in the West Philippine Sea, there are no firm plans nor formal agreements yet with other countries.

Last month, AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar only said that “more patrols” can be expected in 2024 as the Philippines prepares to partner with allies that signified their intention to help protect the West Philippine Sea.

Aguilar also said that there is a possibility that multi-nation patrols can happen “maybe later.”

In November, AFP chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. said there was interest from other countries for joint maritime and air patrols “not just bilaterally but multilaterally.” He added that while there is no specific plan yet, the AFP is “continuously talking with our allies and partners.”

Paradigm shift: The move towards joint patrols and more military cooperative activities is part of a “paradigm shift” in the Philippines’ approach to protecting its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, Aguilar said.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said this was needed after “traditional methods of diplomacy” had very little progress against the “more assertive” China.

“It’s time that the countries that feel that they have an involvement in this situation, we have to come up with a paradigm shift,” the President said.

In 2023, the Philippines conducted joint air and sea patrols with the US and Australia. France has also expressed openness to conducting joint activities.

On January 5, the Philippines’ national security adviser Eduardo Año reiterated that the country remains open to diplomatic discussions with China, and that the Philippines’ joint patrols and potential future activities with other allies “shows our mutual commitment to a rules-based international order and for promoting peace and stability of the region.”

China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting a 2016 Hague ruling that said Beijing’s claims had no legal basis.

Rappler has already published several fact-checks about claims related to the West Philippine Sea situation:

– 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. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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