Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Chinese Coast Guard vessel act on February 6, beaming a military-grade laser light at a Philippine boat, temporarily blinding crewmembers who were on a mission to resupply a military outpost in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, was “offensive and unsafe.”
Following up on the statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said “I think it is time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative act that will endanger the lives of people.”
The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price also chimed in, assuring that Washington “stands with our Philippine allies.” “The PRC’s conduct was provocative and unsafe, resulting in the temporary blindness of the crewmembers of the BRP Malapascua and interfering with the Philippines’ lawful operations in and around Second Thomas Shoal,” he added.
The State Department Official stressed that China has no lawful maritime claims to Ayungin Shoal, as held in the 2016 landmark arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims over a large part of the South China Sea, a decision that China refuses to recognize.
Meanwhile, Malacañang has kept mum on the incident, which happened two days before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Japan and after the United States and the Philippines agreed to resume joint patrols in the sea and struck a deal to give US troops access to another four military bases in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
This offensive, unsafe and provocative act is the latest episode in a series of maritime incidents between the Philippines and China, with the former usually on the receiving end of the bullying, with victims ranging from hapless fishermen to government vessels and crew. To make matters worse, this bullying that we’ve been taking occurs on territory that according to international law, rightfully and indisputably belongs to the Philippines.
How much more acts of aggression and bullying within our own territory are we going to tolerate? If Chinese vessels shoot water cannons and military-grade lasers at Filipinos without consequence, what will it take for our officials who should be protecting our interests and territory to say enough is enough?
Are we going to continue waiting meekly until a Filipino goes permanently blind, gets shot at with real bullets, or is sunk and left to drown by the neighborhood bully? Can we count on our government to stand up against the bully before the matter gets out of hand?*