PH to sustain transparency in WPS ops

By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

February 13, 2024, 6:54 pm

<p><em>(File photo courtesy of PCG)</em></p>

(File photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – The Philippine government continues to uphold a policy of "assertive transparency" on the actions of the Chinese government in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), an official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Tuesday.

During a panel discussion organized by Stratbase ADR Institute, PCG Special Staff to the Commandant, Commodore Jay Tarriela said releasing information on the Chinese aggression in the WPS has been more “institutionalized” but their transparency initiative largely remained the same.

Tarriela said the de-escalation agreement between the two countries during the 8th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) in Shanghai on Jan. 17 has not been a setback as transparency is “not something that is provocative or escalatory.”

“On the part of the Philippine government, there is no reason for us to de-escalate, it is them who is escalating the tension. And it is just us who is on the receiving end,” he said.

He highlighted the recent altercation between the PCG and the China Coast Guard (CCG), where Chinese boats crossed the bow of BRP Teresa Magbanua, a violation of International Collision of Regulation or the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

“We still choose to publicize the aggressive actions of China, just like what we did last weekend, when the CCG did a dangerous maneuver, provocative behavior, crossing the bow of the PCG, those videos and photos were still released,” he said.

However, he said the information released to the public is now more “institutionalized” as they now need to go through the information working group (IWG) of the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).

“Not everything we experience in the WPS is openly released to the public. There are measured -- there is a strategic objective for every news that we inform the public about, something that we should measure to make sure that it will not result in panic or misinterpretation of the public,” he said.

The IWG is composed of the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, National Security Council and PCG.

Once the IWG has processed the information, he said the decision to release it will be made by the NTF-WPS and National Security Adviser, Secretary Eduardo Año.

“We now have a procedure and it's not just a random thing we tell the public about -- the Chinese aggression,” he said.

On Sunday, the PCG reported an encounter with the CCG while BRP Teresa Magbanua was on a nine-day patrol in Bajo de Masinloc.

Aside from crossing the bow of the Philippine vessel, Chinese vessels shadowed the PCG forty times and blocked their ship four times.

The Philippines and China convened the BCM following an agreement between President Ferdinand R. Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease and manage tensions in the WPS. (PNA)