The Philippines is “seeking clarification” from China on the reported “forceful” seizure of rocket debris by the Chinese Coast Guard from the Philippine Navy, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Thursday.
In an interview on CNN Philippines’ “The Source”, Manalo said Manila has sent Beijing a note verbale on the incident first reported by Navy vice Admiral Alberto Carlos. The latter accused China’s coast guard of blocking a Filipino rubber boat towing an “unidentified floating object” in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“We have, of course, our own reports but we would like to hear it from the side of China. And at the same time, we will continue monitoring these incidents and will see what further diplomatic action might be needed,” Manalo said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier told reporters that his country will send China a diplomatic note asking “why is it that their account is so different and it’s much more benign.”
While the Philippines is still seeking China’s side on the reported incident, Manalo said they are standing and “taking to heart” Carlos’ statement. “That’s why we have referred it in effect in the note verbale to China and we’d like to see how they reply,” he said.
“Depending on the reply, if we find the reply lacking or we need further clarification we will continue the discussion perhaps in notes verbale or if necessary through verbal face-to-face meetings,” Manalo added.
Carlos said a Chinese Coast Guard vessel deployed an inflatable boat team which “forcefully retrieved said floating object by cutting the towing line attached to the (Filipino) rubber boat.”
He said the object was then taken to the Chinese Coast Guard vessel as the Filipino troops returned to their station.
China, however, denied this and said that Filipino troops turned over the object to the Chinese Coast Guard “after friendly consultation.”
“There was no so-called blocking of the course of a Philippine Navy boat and forcefully retrieving the object at the scene,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Monday.
The South China Sea, specifically a portion of it claimed and called by Manila as the West Philippine Sea, has been a source of friction between the two countries.
China maintains its sweeping claims over virtually the entire South China Sea and continues to ignore a Hague-based tribunal’s ruling in 2016 invalidating this.