Gibo Teodoro

Gibo: Don’t fall for China’s ‘fake news’ on Ayungin

Bea Cupin

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Gibo: Don’t fall for China’s ‘fake news’ on Ayungin

DEFENSE TIES. Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro joins President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu, and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles at the Exercise Alon joint amphibian exercises in Zamabales on August 25.

Presidential Communications Office

The defense chief also tries to downplay the US' role in a recent Ayungin resupply mission

It was at the tail-end of a joint press conference with Australia’s deputy prime minister when Philippine Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro, seemingly irked by “fake news” propagated by China weeks back, urged the public to stop “making a fuss” about their “propaganda.” 

Gibo: Don’t fall for China’s ‘fake news’ on Ayungin

Teodoro, who was speaking alongside Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marle in San Antonio, Zambales, asked for a “sidebar” after the two defense chiefs talked about the bilateral defense ties of the two countries. 

Shifting to Filipino, Teodoro said: “Alam ‘nyo, maraming nagtatanim ng fake news, tulad ng sinasabi nila may pangako ang kung sino man na gentleman’s agreement na hatakin ang BRP Sierra Madreo mula sa Ayungin [Shoal]. ‘Pag ating pinatulan ‘yan, ang lalabas tayo-tayo magtuturuan, tayo-tayo mag-aaway-away sa tanim na propaganda na ‘yan.”

(You know, there are those who plant fake news, like when someone claimed that there was a promise or a gentleman’s agreement to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal. If we make a big deal out of that, we’ll be pointing fingers at each other, we’ll be fighting among ourselves, we’d find ourselves fighting over planted propaganda.) 

While Teodoro did not say where the propaganda originated, it only takes a cursory search to find out that a few weeks ago, China reiterated a claim that the Philippines promised to remove the World War II-era ship from Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. 

The BRP Sierra Madre ran aground in 1999 in response to China’s takeover of nearby Mischief Reef in 1995. Now rusted and dilapidated, it serves as the Philippines’ outpost. 

It’s also become a flashpoint for China’s unrelenting aggressive moves in the West Philippine Sea. In early August, a Philippine resupply mission for BRP Sierra Madre was harassed and blocked by the China Coast Guard and Chinese military militia vessels. The resupply mission was eventually completed on August 22, but not without China’s repeated attempts to still block Philippine vessels. 

Tutukan na lang natin ang interest natin sa pagsuporta sa ating mga galaw patungo sa pag-suporta sa ating [exclusive economic zone] at sa ating teritoryo. ‘Wag nating patulan ang fake news na ‘yan, ang daming pumapatol,” he added. 

(Let’s just focus on our interest in supporting actions to protect our EEZ and our territory. Stop paying attention to fake news.) 

US in the West Philippine Sea

Still on the West Philippine Sea, Teodoro said he had “not come across” a supposed plan for the US to join the Philippines in its next resupply mission to Ayungin. 

Senator Raffy Tulfo, in a statement released by his office Friday morning, said a “joint operation” between the US and the Philippine Coast Guard to Ayungin was “already underway.”

“Brawner said that they have already talked with Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, for its implementation that will start in the middle of September or the first week of October,” a release from Tulfo’s office said. 

What is already being planned, said Teodoro, was a joint sail operation between the Philippine and US navy forces. 

The US, as the Philippines’ only treaty-ally, is a major point in its defense arsenal. The two countries have a decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty, in which they promised to come to each other’s defense in the event of an attack. The US has said in the past that an attack on a Philippine ship in the West Philippine Sea could be basis for invoking the treaty. 

Americans were present during the August 22 resupply mission – among them, the US Navy’s Poseidon, its anti-submarine warfare aircraft. 

Teodoro said the Americans were merely “conducting freedom of navigation operations of their own, uncoordinated with us – which they do on a regular basis anyway.” 

“They may have coordinated it, but that’s below my level, that level of coordination, if ever,” he added. 

The US embassy, asked about the presence of a Poseidon plane during the operation, refused to go into specifics but said: “All of our military activities in the Philippines are conducted in full coordination with our Philippine Allies.” –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.