MANILA -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it has not received information on a reported incident where at least 2 Chinese vessels allegedly tried to intercept a patrol mission by the Philippine Navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio in the West Philippine Sea.
“It was already confirmed by the PCG that the information did not come from them, but from somebody else. As far as I am concerned, I have not received any information about that incident,” AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.
“No word at all,” he added. “For us, we did not receive any report about the incident, so probably nothing happened.”
In a statement on Monday, the Philippine Coast Guard said that the “incident report is unverified.”
“Upon verification, the PCG confirmed that the said incident report originated from a tweet of American defense and security expert, Mr. Ray Powell,” it added.
In issuing the clarification, the PCG backtracked from its earlier statement where it said that 2 Chinese Coast Guard vessels and 2 Chinese maritime militia “fishing vessels/boats” reportedly shadowed a Philippine warship near Mischief Reef.
At the time, the PCG noted that the Chinese militia vessels “even conducted an intercept towards the Philippine Navy warship.”
Ray Powell, a defense and security expert in the US, earlier shared in a series of tweets details of the said incident from Tuesday, Jan. 31, to Friday, Feb. 3. Powell documented the movement of Chinese ships which appeared to respond to patrols carried out by BRP Andres Bonifacio.
Asked if there was a need to call those onboard BRP Andres Bonifacio to confirm such incident, Aguilar answered: “There’s no need for that.”
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored a ruling at The Hague that its claims have no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse