PH wants China to explain ‘forceful’ taking of rocket wreckage

Published November 24, 2022, 1:43 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

The Philippines is seeking an explanation from China why its coast guard allegedly forcefully took from the Philippine Navy a rocket wreckage it retrieved on the waters off the Pag-asa Island.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo said Thursday the country sent China a note verbale to seek clarification on the incident.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Manalo said the government wanted an “official comment” from the Chinese side after the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied the report that came from the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Now, depending on how the reply comes out, then we will have to see what to do. But definitely, in order to begin the process, we would like to get an official comment from China, especially in response to our note,” the country’s top diplomat said.

A note verbale does not equate to a diplomatic protest yet, Manalo noted.

On November 20, personnel of Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (NSEL) went to the waters off Pag-asa Island to retrieve what turned out to be rocket wreckage from China after noticing it through a long range camera drifting towards Pag-asa Island’s Cay 1 sandbar.

But members of the Chinese Coast Guard supposedly approached them and “blocked their pre-plotted course twice” before “forcefully” retrieving the object by cutting the towing line attached to the NSEL rubber boat, the AFP report read.

China, through its embassy in Manila, denied the report by saying its coast guard took the object after a “friendly consultation.” It also claimed that AFP’s reports “are irrelevant with facts.”

For President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., there were discrepancies in the reports of two sides. On Tuesday, he said he would order the sending of a note verbale to the Chinese government.

Manalo said the Philippines is standing by and “taking to heart” the report of the AFP, but it still wants to hear the Chinese side.

And depending on their reply, Manalo said, the Philippines might ask for further clarification if necessary.

It will also eventually ask about the blast that was supposedly heard by locals in the island.

“We will continue the discussion, perhaps through notes verbale or if necessary, through verbal face to face meetings,” he said.

“At the same time, we will continue monitoring this incident and we’ll see what further diplomatic options might be needed,” he also said.

As of November 22, there are already 189 diplomatic protests filed by the DFA with regards to maritime dispute against China. A total of 61 were made during the current Marcos administration.