MANILA: China appears to be laying the groundwork for “more aggressive actions” in the East and South China Seas as shown in an apparently new “information war” tactic, according to a maritime security expert.
Beijing has been proactively publicizing Manila’s supposed “intrusions” in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, both within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and thousands of kilometers away from the Chinese mainland, and that it was provoking tensions.
“They are trying to give the impression that these areas have always been theirs and that the respective countries have only been recently intruding, even though the truth is the reverse,” UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Prof. Jay Batongbacal told the Inquirer.
Last week, the Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army accused the Philippine Navy of intruding the waters near Panatag Shoal, located within the country’s EEZ where it has sovereignty and jurisdiction.
According to the Chinese military, its naval and air forces “tracked, monitored, warned and restricted” the Philippine Navy’s BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), which trespassed the shoal “without the approval of the Chinese government.”
National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said Chinese vessels shadowed BRP Conrado Yap “without untoward incident.”
Similar tactic in Japan
The Department of Foreign Affairs said that as the sovereign state, the Philippines was under no obligation to seek the approval of another nation when navigating its own territorial sea.
Last month, China also claimed that it drove away a Philippine Navy ship near Panatag, but the Philippine military dismissed it as mere “propaganda.”
Beijing was also ahead of Manila in reporting that it stopped an attempt by the Philippines to send supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal late last month and that Philippine ships had “unprofessional and hazardous” maneuvers.
Videos released by the Philippines, however, showed otherwise, and it was the Chinese vessels that carried out “dangerous blocking maneuvers,” preventing one of the two supply boats from reaching the military outpost.
China has been recently using a similar tactic in Japan over Tokyo-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, but is also claimed by Beijing.
Japan has been concerned over China’s repeated attempts to enter its territorial waters on an “almost daily basis,” according to government officials.
“Both the Philippines and Japan should actively fight against this change in tactic,” Batongbacal said.