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FACT CHECK: No orders from Marcos to surround Chinese ships at Recto Bank


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FACT CHECK: No orders from Marcos to surround Chinese ships at Recto Bank
The Chinese vessels were spotted around Iroquois Reef, south of the oil- and gas-rich Recto Bank, both of which are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone

Claim: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard to surround Chinese vessels at Recto Bank.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video bearing the claim was posted on July 10 by a channel with 416,000 subscribers. As of writing, the video has gained 76,000 views and 2,400 likes.

The same video is also shared on at least two Facebook pages: one with 31,000 followers, where the video now has 4,600 views and 193 reactions, and another page with 4,800 followers, where the video has 14,000 views and 1,200 reactions.

The video’s narrator says: “Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, inutusan ni Pangulong Bongbong Marcos ang Navy at Coast Guard na palibutan ang mga dumating na barko galing China sa Recto Bank.

(For the first time in Philippine history, President Bongbong Marcos ordered the Navy and Coast Guard to surround ships arriving from China at Recto Bank.)

The bottom line: Chinese vessels were spotted roaming the Iroquois Reef, not Recto Bank. There are also no official reports of Marcos ordering the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to surround the Chinese vessels. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PCG said they would intensify patrols in the area, but made no mention of “encircling” the Chinese ships.

Wrong location: The AFP said heightened patrols will be conducted in the Iroquois Reef, south of Recto Bank, where 48 Chinese vessels were spotted last June 30. The vessels were “anchored in groups of five to seven” and seemed to “just loiter” in the area, according to Lieutenant Karla Andres, co-pilot of the Philippine Navy aircraft that spotted the Chinese vessels.

The presence of Chinese ships in the area came days before the seventh anniversary of the historic 2016 Hague ruling that struck down China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea, part of which is claimed by the Philippines.

Both Iroquois Reef and Recto Bank are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, which refers to the “maritime areas on the western side of the Philippine archipelago” based on Administrative Order No. 29 released in 2012. 

In 2016, an international arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, said that the Philippines owns Recto Bank, which is said to contain most of the oil and natural gas in the South China Sea. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the Recto (Reed) Bank “holds unexplored hydrocarbon stores.” (READ: Recto Bank: Why China covets what belongs to the Philippines)

Patrol operations: In an interview with Super Radyo DZBB, PCG spokesperson for the WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela said two PCG vessels will be deployed to “drive” the Chinese vessels away from the reef. 

Tarriela also said that the swarming of Chinese vessels may be a prelude to China’s illegal takeover of the area. The increased PCG patrol is intended to “publicize this kind of swarming activity” as Chinese maritime militia “would become compliant when we ask them to leave.” 

Ito ang isa sa ating mga tools to make sure na this Chinese aggressive behavior and bullying activities will be criticized by the international community so that the Chinese government can be able to be notified [sic] on how they act sa karagatan natin sa West Philippine Sea,” he added.

(This is one of our tools to make sure that this Chinese aggressive behavior and bullying activities will be criticized by the international community, so that the Chinese government can be notified on how they act in our waters in the West Philippine Sea.) Regional allies like Japan and Australia, for example, have reaffirmed their support for the 2016 arbitral ruling, which they said, was binding on both China and the Philippines.

No proof: The video also cited Marcos as saying that he would no longer be fooled by China’s lies and promises related to the West Philippine Sea. However, the video did not provide any proof or source for this supposed statement. 

In Marcos’ previous statements about China, he stressed the importance of creating “more lines of communication” between the two countries amid the longstanding maritime dispute.

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Rappler has published several fact-checks in relation to claims about China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine government’s response:

– 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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