By Anna Leah Gonzales

COMMAND CONFERENCE. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Monday (Oct. 23, 2023) called for a special command conference of the national security and defense clusters in Malacañan to discuss the recent incident in the West Philippine Sea. During the conference, the Philippine Coast Guard was instructed to conduct a maritime investigation. (Photo courtesy of PCO)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Monday called for a special command conference with all security officials to discuss the recent collision incident in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and ordered the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to immediately conduct a maritime investigation.

“He instructed the Philippine Coast Guard to conduct an investigation, as mandated by international maritime laws, into the events that transpired during the RORE mission to Ayungin Shoal by vessels of the China Coast Guard,” the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a statement.

“The incident, brought about by dangerous, illegal, and reckless maneuvers by vessels of the China Coast Guard, caused damage to a Philippine vessel within our exclusive economic zone and is being taken seriously at the highest level of government,” the PCO added.

The PCG said it is looking to complete its investigation in five days.

‘Serious’ escalation

In a separate briefing in Malacañan on Monday, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said China’s recent action is a serious escalation of the illegal activities conducted by the Chinese government in the WPS and a complete disregard of any norm or convention of international law.

Teodoro said that on Oct. 22, while conducting a legitimate rotation and resupply (RORE) mission within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels harassed and collided with Unaiza May 2 and PCG vessel BRP Cabra.

He said this occurred within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, “which China has no jurisdiction, authority or right to conduct any operations.”

“The Philippine government views the latest aggression by China as a blatant violation of international law. China has no legal right or authority to conduct law enforcement operations in our territorial waters. We are taking this incident seriously at the highest level of government,” Teodoro said.

Teodoro said Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian has been summoned also on Monday by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo to condemn China’s reckless and illegal act.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz was also instructed to convey the same message to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Teodoro said the Philippines acknowledges the support of its allies and like-minded nations such as the United States, Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the European Union in condemning China’s aggression and expansionist actions.

He also urged Filipinos to support the government’s moves to secure the country’s interest in the WPS.

“We call on our people to stand behind the Government in executing our constitutional mandate to secure the national interest in the West Philippine Sea,” said Teodoro.

“Kaya po minabuti ng ating pamahalaan, sa liderato po ng ating Pangulo, na maghayag ngayong araw na ito upang sa ganun ay huwag na pong kumalat ang fake news at anumang mga espekulasyon. Kaya maniwala na lang po sa ating gobyerno at huwag po itong maging ugat ng pagtatanim ng fake news ng Tsina at ng iba upang tayo’y magkawatak-watak (That’s why our government, under the leadership of our President, decided to make an announcement today so that fake news and any speculations don’t spread. So just believe in our government and don’t let it be the root of fake news planted by China and others to divide us),” Teodoro said. (PNA)