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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Ayungin clash not an armed attack, a ‘misunderstanding’ – Palace

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Palace says MDT invocation ‘not considered’

Malacañang said the attack on unarmed Filipino soldiers by China Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia vessels in Ayungin Shoal was a “misunderstanding” and does not require invoking a defense treaty with the United States.

In a press conference held on Friday, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said the government does not consider the June 17 incident an armed attack.

As such, the Philippines will not invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States yet, hoping the issue will be resolved after the National Maritime Council (NMC) laid out its recommendations to the President, he said.

“We are not yet ready to consider this as an armed attack,” Bersamin told reporters when asked if Manila would ask Washington to honor a treaty requiring it to come to its defense in case of an “armed attack” against Filipino vessels, aircraft, military and coast guard.

Bersamin also said the President has agreed to the recommendation of the NMC to publish the schedule of the RoRe missions to the soldiers stationed at BRP Sierra Madre.

“Well, you know, this was probably a misunderstanding or an accident. We’re not ready to say this was an armed attack just yet. I don’t know if the things we saw were a bolo, ax, nothing more than that,” Bersamin added.

The “misunderstanding” near Ayungin Shoal saw a number of CCG personnel brandishing weapons and ramming Philippine naval vessels, which were deployed to conduct a routine rotation and resupply (RoRe) mission to the grounded BRP Sierra Madre.

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. also described the attack as an act of “piracy.”

Asked how President Marcos reacted to the situation, Presidential Adviser on Maritime Concerns Andres Centino said that the Commander-in-Chief immediately asked concerned Cabinet secretaries to address the matter.

“We just submitted policy recommendations for his consideration,” Centino said after being asked what the President’s instructions.

On the other hand, Bersamin explained that the Department of Foreign Affairs had reached out to China, but officials from the DFA have not given updates on the situation.

Earlier, Bersamin led the NMC’s second meeting at Malacañang, organized by the Presidential Office for Maritime Concerns (POMC).

The meeting followed Executive Order No. 57, signed by President Marcos in March, aimed at enhancing maritime security and coordination among the NMC, POMC, National Maritime Center, and National Task Force-West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).

Representatives from 12 Council members and the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS) attended. They discussed maritime challenges affecting defense, agriculture, fisheries, environment, energy, local governance, transportation, and justice sectors. With AFP

Members agreed on Implementing Guidelines to streamline coordination and received briefings on Philippine maritime zones, the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, and recent updates on Ayungin Shoal.

The Council proposed regular RoRe missions to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal and emphasized policies promoting national interests for a stable WPS (known to Beijing as South China Sea). – With AFP

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “Palace: Marcos to issue new policies on WPS, no plans to invoke Mutual Defense Treaty yet.”

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