Ayungin incident misinterpreted, not China's armed attack — PCG

Kristine Daguno-Bersamina - Philstar.com
Ayungin incident misinterpreted, not China's armed attack � PCG
This frame grab from handout video taken on June 17, 2024 and released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office on June 19 shows China coast guard boats (L) approaching Philippine boats (C) during an incident off Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. The Philippine military said on June 19 the Chinese coast guard rammed and boarded Filipino navy boats in a violent confrontation in the South China Sea this week in which a Filipino sailor lost a thumb. China defended its actions, with its foreign ministry saying on Wednesday that "no direct measures" were taken against Filipino personnel.
Photo by handout / Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said that the June 17 confrontation in the West Philippine Sea should not be interpreted as an armed attack by China, describing it as a misunderstanding of China's intentions.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, explained that while Chinese coast guard sailors were seen brandishing knives, an axe and other weapons in the footage, their aim was to obstruct a Philippine resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal, which they claimed as their territory, rather than engage in aggression.

"Their (China Coast Guard) main objective is not to have an armed attack or an aggression, but rather to prevent the Philippine government from completing the resupply mission," Tarriela said during a news forum on Saturday,

"And that is something na masasabi nating there was a wrong interpretation of the real intent of China (We can say there was a misinterpretation of China's true intentions in that regard)," he added.

Tarriela said that both Philippine and Chinese forces were merely performing their respective duties.

"Our objective is to resupply, the Chinese objective is to prevent the resupply from happening. That is the only thing that happened there in the resupply mission," the PCG spokesman said.

Tarriela issued the statement after Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said the June 17 incident could not yet be considered an armed attack as defined under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Bersamin and Presidential Assistant on Maritime Concerns Andres Centino said the Philippines will not yet invoke the defense pact with the United States.

For maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, he said that the Philippines should not simply react to every incident as if it is "an act of war and warrants full scale hostilities."

“These are not yet enough to be considered as an armed attack that warrants the engagement in self-defense or the right of self-defense and collective self-defense, also under the UN (United Nations) charter," Batongbacal said during the Saturday forum.

"And the intention here is to give space also for diplomatic resolution of the disputes between states which have the skirmishes,” he added.

Even if the Philippines have a mandate under the Constitution to “renounce war as a means to national policy," Batongbacal said that the nation's "first recourse will always be to seek a peaceful diplomatic solution.”

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