Philippines' denial statement reveals its bluff as well as feebleness
Published: Oct 10, 2023 11:23 PM
China Coast Guard drives away Philippine vessels intruding into waters of China's Nansha Islands

File Photo: China Coast Guard drives away Philippine vessels intruding into waters of China's Nansha Islands

A China Coast Guard spokesperson has said in a statement that a Philippine Navy gunboat intruded into the waters adjacent to China's Huangyan Island on Tuesday disregarding repeated warnings. China Coast Guard vessels took measures, such as tracking and controlling the ship's route, to drive away the Philippine vessel after multiple verbal warnings were ineffective. A Philippine Navy gunboat taking this provocative action is very rare in the recent maritime friction between China and the Philippines. I believe this is an escalation of the Philippine provocation in the South China Sea.

China's statement quickly caught the attention of external parties, especially the Philippine public opinion. Philippine media asked Romeo Brawner, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), over the incident and Brawner replied, it's not true, and it's "China's propaganda." "If ever we do have a ship there, we will not allow ourselves to be driven away," Brawner claimed.

I firmly believe that the Chinese Coast Guard's report on maritime tension is serious. In order to manage the situation, China will occasionally withhold information regarding the conflict, but we will never make up a fake story. The Philippine side, however, lacks credibility and frequently makes unfounded, baseless claims.

In my opinion, it must have been a case where the Chinese Coast Guard dealt with the Philippine-provoking boat firmly, embarrassing them and driving them away. The Philippine military did not anticipate the Chinese side would swiftly make the issue public after the boat from the Philippines left in a terrible state. They have resorted to denial in an effort to avoid having to explain it to the Filipino people, claiming that nothing happened. This fully exposed the Philippines' bluff and bluster, revealing their true face of being outwardly strong but inwardly weak.

Manila has expanded its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with Washington this year, granting increased access to the US military in the Philippines. In return, the US has been actively promoting the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, encouraging the newly elected Marcos Jr administration to assertively challenge China's maritime activities. The current Philippine government is attempting to use the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty to pressure concessions from China. The Philippines has escalated provocative actions in both the Ren'ai Jiao and Huangyan Island, and has intensified its propaganda efforts.

This behavior is reckless, and if China applies pressure, it will collapse. In terms of naval and coast guard forces, there is no comparison between China and the Philippines. The Philippines cannot match China's capability to maintain a presence in these areas. When the Philippines sends an outdated gunboat, it is merely putting on a show, as it would never dare to open fire on Chinese coast guard vessels. If it dares to fire the first shot, its fate will undoubtedly be at the bottom of the sea, and there is no doubt about that.

The Philippines does not have the capability to truly confront China, so as long as the Chinese side remains resolute and responds firmly to their provocations by blocking their ships' routes or even colliding with vessels if necessary, the Philippine side will definitely have cold feet. They do not have the courage to escalate the friction into a real military conflict and can only howl after suffering losses or refuse to take responsibility for what has happened, as we can see from this incident.

I know that many Chinese netizens will be angry after reading such news, thinking that "sinking the Philippine ships that intrude is enough." I want to say that we have various methods of dealing with the Philippines' frivolous provocations, and there is no need to break our record of not engaging in any foreign wars for many years just because of them. Letting the Philippine side stir up trouble and lose face each time is actually a better way to deal with it slowly and gradually.

The author is a Chinese media professional. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn