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FACT CHECK: Marcos did not confront China over coral reef destruction


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FACT CHECK: Marcos did not confront China over coral reef destruction
While the government said it is studying the option of filing a complaint against Beijing, it was former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio – not Marcos himself – who suggested the idea

Claim: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. confronted China and threatened to sue it over the destruction of coral reefs within Philippine territory in the wake of recent tensions between the two countries.

Rating: FALSE

Why we need to fact-check this: The YouTube video bearing the claim has 32,838 views and 1,800 likes at the time of writing. It was posted on September 29 by a channel notorious for spreading dubious claims about the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

The video’s narrator claimed that Marcos confronted China over the latter’s proposal for an alliance, and countered that China should instead be sued for its deception and for causing environmental destruction in Philippine territory.

In its title, the video also claimed that France had allied with the Philippines to fight China.

The bottom line: Marcos has not confronted China, and in fact said said that Manila was not looking for trouble with Beijing, but would continue to defend its territories to protect its resources and freedom of navigation.

It was former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio who suggested that the Philippines could sue China over its destruction of marine ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine government, however, has said it is “seriously studying” bringing China to court over its alleged harvesting and destruction of corals and installation of floating barriers at Scarborugh Shoal.

Diplomatic relations with China: Footage of the discussion between Marcos and Chinese leader Xi Jinping shown in the video was from their bilateral meeting in January 2023, where the two leaders had an “in-depth and frank discussion” on the West Philippine Sea.

Prior to his visit, Marcos had expressed interest in establishing a direct communication line between the Philippine and Chinese foreign ministries to avoid mishaps in the West Philippine Sea. However, China reportedly did not pick up calls during the water cannon incident last August. 

The Marcos administration continues to leverage the 2016 Hague decision in favor of Manila. The Tribunal ruled that China violated the Philippines’ “sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone” and that its large-scale reclamation projects caused “severe harm to the coral reef environment” in the South China Sea.

China rejects the ruling, calling it a “pure political drama” with the United States “pulling strings behind the scenes.” In recent months, Beijing continues to assert its claims by installing floating barriers in Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc), creating a 10-dash line map expanding its claim in the South China Sea, and blocking Philippine supply boats near a disputed shoal.

Former solicitor general and Supreme Court associate justice Francis Jardeleza, who led the Philippine team that won the historic 2016 case, has also urged the Marcos administration to file a new case against China for refusing to acknowledge the arbitral ruling.

Other erroneous details: The video also falsely claimed that France was ready to enter into an alliance with the Philippines to attack China. 

France had previously expressed concern over China’s continuing hostile acts. While Marcos and French President Emmanuel Macron did discuss security issues in the West Philippine Sea, there was no talk about going to war against the Asian superpower. 

France had also stated support towards developing the Philippine submarine force as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

Rappler has fact-checked the channel Boss Balita TV for its dubious and erroneous claims about 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. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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