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Home » The Philippines campaign to draw attention to Chinese activities

The Philippines campaign to draw attention to Chinese activities

by Eli Barker
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As reported by a Philippine official on Wednesday, the Philippine coast guard has begun a strategy of publicising aggressive actions by China in the disputed South China Sea. This strategy has countered Chinese propaganda and sparked international condemnation, which has put Beijing in the spotlight.

A Chinese coast guard ship aimed a military-grade laser at a Philippine patrol boat off a disputed reef on February 6, temporarily blinding some crew members for a few seconds. Since then, Manila’s coast guard has increased patrols in the disputed waters and made extra efforts to document and publicise assertive Chinese behaviour in the strategic waterway. It caused concern in the Philippines, the United States, and other Western nations when the coast guard objected and published a video of the event. To address the long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called in China’s ambassador to Manila and announced that the country’s military would shift its focus from fighting Muslim and communist insurgents and other internal threats to external defence.

Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela said, “I would like to emphasise that the best way to address Chinese ‘grey zone’ activities in the West Philippine Sea is to expose it.” The Commodore was referring to China’s use of ostensibly civilian fishing and research vessels to perform military tasks in order to avoid a military response from rival claimant states. Tarriela referred to the area of the South China Sea along the Philippines’ western coast by its Native name. There was a meeting in Manila where he discussed China’s “grey zone” activities in the contested waters. Because of the Filipino coast guard’s efforts to speak out against Chinese aggression, “like-minded governments may voice censure and reprimand, which puts Beijing in the limelight,” he added. Chinese covert operations are being monitored, forcing the Chinese to either come clean or openly lie. Manila’s fury over the laser-pointing event, according to Tarriela, spurred China to issue statements and have its envoy to Manila address the media. Chinese authorities said the Filipino patrol vessel had illegally entered Chinese waters, and that the Chinese coast guard had responded “professionally and with moderation” by using a harmless laser to follow the path of the Philippine vessel. “We can once again influence public opinion to assess things objectively based on facts and not just propaganda,” Tarriela added, referring to the release of unedited coast guard tapes and images of such Chinese operations. China’s “dangerous operational conduct directly affects regional peace and stability” and “undermines the rules-based international order,” the U.S. State Department said in response to the incident. It reaffirmed its earlier threat to protect the Philippines, a treaty partner, if Philippine military personnel, planes, or ships were attacked in the South China Sea. Former U.S. Air Force colonel Raymond Powell, an expert on Chinese military tactics, has praised the Philippine coast guard for publicising China’s actions in the South China Sea but has warned that the Philippine government will face pressure from China to “stop making so much trouble, stop releasing things.”

Since China lays claim to so much of the South China Sea, it is in direct conflict with countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The difficulties have remained despite the visits to Beijing by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his successor, Marcos Jr., who met with President Xi Jinping in January.

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