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FACT CHECK: US warship did not destroy Chinese drones in West PH Sea

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FACT CHECK: US warship did not destroy Chinese drones in West PH Sea
The image featured in the misleading video is from a 2015 training exercise and is unrelated to the West Philippine Sea

CLAIM: A dozen Chinese drones were destroyed by the USS Benfold in the West Philippine Sea. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The video bearing the claim was posted on December 9 by the YouTube channel “PH TV,” which has 333,000 subscribers. 

It has gained 29,596 views, 1,100 likes, and 145 comments as of writing.

Ammunition, Missile, Weapon

The facts: The image showing the supposed firing incident is a photo of USS The Sullivans during a training exercise on July 18, 2015. 

The alleged incident was also not reported in the official and verified Facebook pages of the US Navy or the Philippines’ Navy and Department of National Defense. There were also no reports from the media confirming the supposed attack. 

Contrary to the video’s claim, no reports confirm the presence of the USS Benfold in the West Philippine Sea. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was last reported to have returned to Yokosuka, Japan, on August 31 after conducting maritime patrols and joint exercises with allied forces, including exercise Noble Chinook with the Royal Canadian Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. 

No recent incident: In 2014, Chinese drones were spotted hovering above the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, according to a Philstar article. At the time, the Philippine military also reported the increased presence of Chinese vessels within Philippine territory.

Rising tensions: Tensions between the Philippines and China have risen in recent months amid acts of Chinese aggression, including several water cannon incidents against Philippine ships. China had also been suspected of massive coral harvesting in the West Philippine Sea and had put up floating barriers at the southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal.

In early December, a civilian-led convoy to the West Philippine Sea did not reach its destination due to the constant “shadowing” of Chinese vessels. 

China remains steadfast in its refusal to acknowledge the 2016 arbitral ruling that nullified its expansive claims over the resource-abundant South China Sea.

US-China relations: In the face of increasing Chinese hostility, the Philippines has moved closer to its ally, the US, which has also reiterated its “ironclad” defense commitment to the Philippines.

China has protested about US ships patrolling disputed areas. On December 4, Beijing said the USS Gabrielle Giffords, an Independence-class littoral combat ship, illegally entered territorial waters in the South China Sea.  

The US Navy argued that its vessel was conducting routine operations in international waters, consistent with international law.

Previous false claims: Rappler has fact-checked similar claims about military activities in the West Philippine Sea:

– James Patrick Cruz/Rappler.com

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