MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Thursday blasted China's claim that their account of the Feb. 6 laser-pointing incident near Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea did "not reflect the truth."
PCG adviser for maritime security Cmdr. Jay Tarriela belied the Chinese Foreign Ministry's statement that the Chinese Coast Guard was only using "hand-held equipment" to measure the distance of other vessels.
"It's important to note that their vessels already have radars. Why would you do that, right? Why would you point those lasers to the crew of the [Philippine] Coast Guard vessel?" Tarriela said in an ANC interview,
"The mere fact that our crew reported that they experienced that temporary loss of vision... is something that is not a made-up story," he added.
"They can deny that it's not a [military-grade laser], but the mere fact that this kind of laser has that kind of intensity and impaired the vision of our crew, this is worrisome."
Tarriela said it was "improper" for the Philippines to accept such claims from the Chinese government.
"Why are we going to believe the narrative of China na we are the ones lying and making up stories na nabulag ang tropa natin... na kung pakikinggan mo ang first statement nila, they were actually claiming na tayo ang nag-intrude sa sarili nating waters?" he said.
(Why are we going to believe the narrative of China that we are the ones lying and making up stories that our troops were temporarily blinded... If you listen to their first statement, they were actually claiming that we intruded into our own waters.)
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it stood by the PCG's account of the incident.
"As far as the DFA is concerned, we have no reason to doubt the Philippine Coast Guard's account of the incident... BRP Malapascua was undertaking legitimate activities in the Philippine [exclusive economic zone], and that the CCG's action placed the BRP Malapascua and its crew in danger," DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza told reporters on Thursday.
"While we agree that [the Philippines and China] should continue working together, we hope the Chinese side would reciprocate our efforts and refrain from committing actions that do not in any way positively contribute to our relations," Daza added.
On Wednesday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin denied in a press conference that the Chinese Coast Guard pointed any lasers at Philippine vessels.
His statement was a response to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s move to summon Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to express serious concern on "the increasing frequency and intensity of actions" by Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.
PCG's BRP Malapascua vessel had been supporting a resupply mission of the Philippine Navy on the Ayungin Shoal when the laser incident occurred.
The United States, Japan, Australia, and Canada have expressed their support for the Philippines following the incident, urging the Chinese government to adhere to international maritime laws.
The Philippines has since filed a diplomatic protest on the incident, the latest in an ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
— With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News