China denies its coast guard ship pointed laser at PH vessel

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — China on Wednesday denied that its coast guard ship pointed a military-grade laser at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel, saying the use of laser was for “navigation safety.”

The denial came after nations expressed support for the Philippines and called out the Chinese Coast Guard’s (CCG) recent actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), particularly the laser-pointing incident that temporarily blinded the crew of the PCG ship and disrupted their resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the PCG’s report “does not reflect the truth.” He maintained that the CCG ship only responded in accordance with Chinese law, and warned the PCG to leave the waters near Ayungin Shoal in the WPS.

“During that process, the China Coast Guard ship used hand-held laser speed detector and hand-held greenlight pointer to measure the distance and speed of the Philippine vessel and signal directions to ensure navigation safety,” Wang told the media.

“We need to highlight the fact that the China Coast Guard ship did not direct lasers at the Philippine crew, and the hand-held equipment does not inflict damage on anything or anyone on the vessel. The Philippine side’s allegation does not reflect the truth,” he added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the diplomatic protest was sent to the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday, condemning the "shadowing, harassment, dangerous maneuvers, directing of military-grade laser, and illegal radio challenges by CCG vessel 5205 against PCG vessel BRP Malapascua on 6 February 2023."

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to express “serious concern” over the incident last Tuesday.

Wang said the ambassador “clarified the facts” with the Philippine leaders and communication was being done through bilateral liaison mechanisms.

“The Philippine side has learned what actually happened. We stand ready to work with the Philippine side to fully deliver on the important common understandings reached between the two presidents, continue to properly handle maritime issues through friendly consultation and jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he added.

In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China. The five-member arbitral tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claims and recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Reacting to China's latest statement, House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro told CNN Philippines she believes the PCG's report.

“We think this a direct attack and aggression to our country,” she added.

Castro also noted that Manila “should be strong this time” when it comes to dealing with the acts of Beijing. This can be done by increasing patrols in the WPS together with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

READ: Ex-NSA Carlos on China’s aggressions: Let’s stop being meek, go on the offensive

She also urged Southeast Asian leaders to establish the code of conduct in the South China Sea, which will determine the allowable actions in the disputed waters.

Given the presence of American troops in the country, Castro said the Philippines should be also careful to avoid getting entangled in the issues between the United States and China.