Ex-Wescom chief Carlos denies making deal with China

Ex-Wescom chief Carlos denies making deal with China
Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Westerm Command Chief, speaks during an interview with the media at a port in Palawan on March 6, 2024.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, former chief of the military’s Western Command, on Wednesday denied agreeing on a “new model” to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea. 

Carlos, who was recently replaced as the chief of the command overseeing troops in the West Philippine Sea, said in a Senate hearing that he had a “casual and informal” telephone conversation with a Chinese embassy military attache, identified as “Colonel Li,” in January about reducing tensions during resupply missions to BRP Sierra Made in the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. 

“I did not forge any agreement at the level and magnitude that would bind our two countries for the long term and redefine foreign policy,” Carlos said. 

“I did not enter into any secret deals that will compromise the interests of our country. We are on the same team," he added, as he called for unity against “false narrative.” 

The Philippines has maintained that it has not made any agreements with China concerning the Ayungin Shoal and stressed that only President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. can authorize deals on matters related to the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. 

The Chinese Embassy in Manila released to select media recording and transcript of a phone call between a Chinese diplomat and Carlos on the so-called “new model” arrangement on the Ayungin Shoal. 

Carlos told senators that he did not discuss a “new model” with the Chinese official. 

“The terms ‘common understanding’ and ‘new model’ were not part of our conversation,” the Navy official said. 

“We were exploring ways to reduce the tension coming from the December 2023 rotation and resupply (RORE) mission where our supply ships were water cannoned and we were planning for the next RORE,” he added.

Carlos denounces ‘wiretapping’

Carlos also told the senators that he did not consent to a recording of his phone call with the Chinese official. 

“I condemn the act of the Chinese Embassy to record the conversation without my consent, much more to divulge it to the public with malicious twist and manipulation in order to appear that our discussion supported the corrosive narrative of the People’s Republic of China,” he said. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday said his administration is looking into the alleged wiretapping. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice said last week they were investigating the alleged illegal activities foreign diplomats following calls to probe China’s possible violations of the Anti-Wire Tapping Act and diplomatic protocols.

Justice Jesus Crispin Remulla reminded foreign diplomats to respect the laws and regulations of the Philippines as he stressed that diplomatic immunity is never absolute. 

The Philippines has repeatedly condemned China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the waters claimed by Manila, which include ramming of supply and Coast Guard boats ,and use of water cannons.

Beijing claims nearly the entire South China Sea, dismissing claims from other countries, including the Philippines, and an international court ruling that found its assertions to have no legal basis. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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