Fact checks on militaries

FACT CHECK: No Marcos order expelling China from West PH Sea


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FACT CHECK: No Marcos order expelling China from West PH Sea
Marcos says the government will defend the Philippines’ territory amid ‘worrisome’ Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea but does not make reference to any expulsion of China

Claim: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has sent China away from the West Philippine Sea following reports of Chinese presence in Bajo de Masinloc.


Why we fact-checked this: A YouTube channel with 384,000 subscribers posted a video on February 28, which has gained 994 likes, 37,430 views, and 227 comments as of writing. 

The video’s title and thumbnail bore the text “Pinalayas na China!” (China has been sent away!) and references implying Marcos ordered military deployment to deter Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea. 

The video was posted following reports of Chinese warships spotted near Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, in late February.

The facts: Marcos made no statement ordering China to leave the West Philippine Sea. The interview clip seen in the video was from Marcos’ interview on February 28 before his two-day state visit to Australia. Marcos told reporters: “It’s worrisome because there are two elements to that. One, dati Coast Guard lang ng China ang gumagalaw doon sa area natin, ngayon may Navy na, sumama pa mga fishing boat. So nagbabago ang sitwasyon.” (Before, it was just the Chinese Coast Guard moving in our area, now it’s the Navy along with fishing boats. So the situation has changed.)

In the President’s remarks, there was no explicit order for China to leave. He went on to affirm the government’s commitment to defend the country’s sovereignty and protect its fisherfolk.

Chinese presence: Marcos’ statement comes after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on February 27 that it monitored the presence of at least three People’s Liberation Army navy warships in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc during a mission of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela added that the BFAR also spotted a Chinese aircraft patrolling over the airspace of Bajo de Masinloc.

Earlier on February 25, the PCG said the China Coast Guard (CCG) blocked the BFAR vessel BRP Datu Sanday en route to Bajo de Masinloc to distribute fuel aid to Filipino fishermen. The CCG also jammed the automatic identification system (AIS) signal of BRP Datu Sanday, according to Tarriela. The PCG spokesperson added that this is not the first time that the CCG allegedly blocked a Philippine vessel’s AIS signal.

Maritime tensions: China’s assertive maritime actions have heightened tensions with the Philippines. In recent months, there have been reports of Chinese harassment against Filipino fishermen collecting sea shells near Bajo de Masinloc and several water cannon incidents. The latest incidents at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea earlier this March involved a collision between Philippine and Chinese vessels, while a separate water cannon incident injured at least four Filipinos.

In July 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in the Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines’ challenge against China’s expansive territorial claims. Despite this, China refuses to accept the ruling and continues to assert its claims using its “nine-dash line” encompassing a significant portion of the South China Sea.

Marcos has previously emphasized the need for a calibrated response to ongoing tensions in the West Philippine Sea. He has also highlighted developments in the South China Sea in his foreign trips with key allies. In a speech to the Australian Partliament on February 29 Marcos thanked Australia for adhering to international rules-based order, adding: “We have an abiding interest in keeping our seas free and open and in ensuring unimpeded passage and freedom of navigation.” – Rappler.com

This fact check was written by a group of students under the Social Media and Dynamics class of Professor Patrick Ernest Celso from the University of Santo Tomas. It was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. 

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