PCG's 'tell-all strategy' will counter China's disinformation on West PH Sea - expert

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2023 07:05 PM

 Photo courtesy: AFP Western Command/Maj. Cherryl Tindog
Photo courtesy: AFP Western Command/Maj. Cherryl Tindog

MANILA — Security and defense analysts on Monday expressed support for the Philippine Coast Guard's move to publicize all Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Chester Cabalza, founding president of the International Development and Security Cooperation, said the PCG’s “tell-all strategy” would highly effective in countering China’s misinformation and disinformation in their narratives.

“We told our narratives, they are not listening to us. We are doing the right thing through diplomatic protests, they are not listening to us and ignoring us. This is the best way to be hard and tough to them," Cabalza said.

“We have laws to protect us and at the same time to tell the world that China is not doing the right thing in their engagements with us,” he added.

Dr. Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, stressed that maritime incidents must be disclosed as much as possible.

He said hiding such incidents could be attributed to Manila’s warm relationship with Beijing during the previous administration.

“Last administration, ang policy niya ay sumunod sa request ng China na tumahimik na lamang,” Batongbacal told ABS-CBN News’ Teleradyo on Monday. 

“It comes from the top. Kung ang liderato o presidente ang nagtatakip, walang magagawa ang ibang ahensya kundi sumunod lamang… Ngayon, nagbago ng presidente. At least ang initial signals niya or top policy statements tungkol dito ay hindi gaya ng huli na tatahimik na lang tayo. Medyo mas malakas ang postura ng current leadership kaya ang PCG at Philippine Navy ay nilakasan din ang loob.”

During a maritime domain awareness (MDA) flight conducted last week, the PCG confirmed the continued presence of about 30 Chinese Coast Guard and suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels in Ayungin Shoal and Sabina Shoal.

The PCG aircraft received radio challenges, both in English and Chinese, from the CCG during the flight.

Cabalza and Batongbacal believe China’s presence and continued aggression were meant to push the Philippines out of the said areas “voluntarily.”

“There are very strategic reasons why China is eyeing those shoals. Let’s talk about Ayungin Shoal where we have the BRP Sierra Madre there. The reason why we cannot take it out is because it represents our claims in the territory. For China, if they can conquer, invade or occupy it, it says a lot on their victory in claiming the EEZ of the PH,” Cabalza said.

“Secondly, Sabina Shoal is a barangay of Pag-asa Island. It also tells a lot if they are able to encircle it and occupy it. These are part of the optics and cognitive warfare China is pushing. We’re trying to counter it. PCG is now at the helm, they are at the forefront. We are trying to be diplomatic with China. If we send the gray ships, it means war or more conflict.”

Batongbacal, for his part, noted: “Nakita natin ngayon, gut issue na talaga. Taggutom ngayon sa ating mga baybayin. Ang mga mangingisda natin walang mahuli. Dahil wala nang mahuli sa WPS at di sila makapaglayag man lang, masyado nang peligroso mga mangingisda doon kasi pag nakita ang CCG at CMM, natatakot sila. Ayaw pa silang payagan na makapangisda nang malaya, hindi sila pinapagshelter pag masama ang panahon. Napipilitan silang umuwi na lamang. Hindi man lang makabawi sa krudo at pagkain man lang.”

“Hindi talaga tayo dapat tumigil sa pagsisiwalat ng kamalian ng ginagawa nila sa SCS at WPS. Ang nangyari sa mga shoal at bahura diyan, kahit nakapirmi lang sila diyan, masama ang environmental impact niyan. Nasisira ang mga bahura diyan. Hindi rin tayo makapangisda dahil nandiyan sila. Acts of the crime ‘yan na ginagawa nila para makuha nila ang WPS,” he added.

PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Cmdr. Jay Tarriela had said on ANC that the Philippines was committed to maintain its presence in the disputed waters.

“Since the start of the year, the PCG has received clear guidance from the president directing our commandant Admiral Artemio Abu to intensify the PCG’s presence to make sure there is constant deployment of PCG vessels and aircraft to monitor our EEZ,” Tarriela said.

He also said the Chinese government only reacts on the incurisions whenever the Philippines puts the incidents out to the public.

Tarriela admitted over the weekend that not all incidents of Chinese incursions in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone were reported to the public, including the first alleged laser-pointing incident involving BRP Habagat in June last year.

At present, the PCG only has 3 offshore patrol vessels used for monitoring activities in Philippine waters.

The agency hopes Congress will support the modernization of the PCG to allow it to acquire more sophisticated offshore patrol vessels and equipment for deployment to the country’s maritime borders.


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