Philippines to deliver ‘note’ to China on maritime ‘encounter’

Philippines to deliver ‘note’ to China on maritime ‘encounter’

As Asia-Pacific is ‘heating up,’ President Marcos says ‘issue needs to be resolved’

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ISTANBUL (AA) – Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said Manila will deliver a “note verbale” to China on the "maritime encounter" between the two navies on Sunday.

“Yes, I think that that’s what we need to do – when it was first reported to me by the (Armed Forces of Philippines) Chief of Staff, I asked him to immediately call … the military attache in the Chinese embassy and to get a report,” Marcos said, referring to an incident on Sunday around Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea when China Coast Guard (CCG) “forcibly” took away the suspected rocket debris from Filipino sailors who had towed it to their boat and were moving towards their coast.

Before the Chinese-Filipino maritime encounter, locals around the island were jolted by what appeared sounds from suspected blasts.

Note verbale is a diplomatic note that is more formal than an aide-memoire and less formal than a note, and is drafted in the third person, but is never signed.

According to various transcripts of his brief chat with reporters, Marcos, however, said the reports of the incident from Filipino Navy and Chinese officials “do not match.”

“So, we have to resolve this issue. Of course, I have complete trust in our Navy and if this is what they say happened, I can only believe that that is what happened,” he said, adding that he is “glad” to visit China in January on an official visit.

“These are the things that we need to work out because ... Asia Pacific is heating up … ,” said Marcos.

During the incident this weekend, the Chinese blocked the way and cut the towing cable, and took away the debris.

The incident in the widely contested South China Sea happened the day when US Vice President Kamala Harris landed in Manila.

She met her counterpart Sara Duterte on Monday before a courtesy call on Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Manila is Washington’s oldest ally in the region.

On the concluding day of her trip to the Southeast Asian nation, Harris visited Puerto Princesa City in western Palawan province on Tuesday – the first highest-ranking US official ever to visit the western island of Philippines – where she met fisherfolk and members of the Philippine Coast Guard.

China claims most of the sea as its own, but the US – which Beijing accuses of “provocations” – and surrounding countries, including the Philippines, disagree.

Washington and its allies regularly deploy their warships and air force in the region under the notion of "freedom of navigation."

The Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016, invalidating China's claims over the sea.

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