PH coast guard spox confronts China on its ‘disconnect’ in words and actions in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela recently confronted China’s defense minister Li Shangfu at the Shangri-La Dialogue about the “apparent disconnect” in the Asian giant’s words and actions in the West Philippine Sea.
But Tarriela said Tuesday that his question was merely brushed aside and left unanswered.
At Asia’s top security summit in Singapore, which ran from June 2 to 4, Tarriela asked: “While China is talking about dialogue, China’s actions show confrontation. Thus, my question is…why is there a big difference between China’s words and actions?”
He cited President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s visit to China in January, where both countries’ top leaders discussed how to manage maritime disputes in a peaceful and diplomatic manner.
This was a seeming contrast with reports in the same month of Filipino fisherfolk being “harassed and driven away by China Coast Guard” in the waters of Ayungin Shoal.`
A month later, Tarriela noted that a China Coast Guard ship had reportedly directed a “military-grade” laser at one of the PCG vessels.
I am grateful to @IISS_org, @jamescrabtree, @ConnellyAL and @chipmanj for giving me the opportunity to pose a question to the Chinese Defense Minister that the Philippines and other nations have been eager to ask:
— Jay Tarriela (@jaytaryela) June 5, 2023
When asked about Li’s response to his question, Tarriela said there were a lot of questions raised before China’s defense official.
“It is unfortunate that it’s either he will evade the question or just, you know, choose not to respond,” Tarriela told ABS-CBN News’ Rundown.
Tarriela said he was also unable to observe Li’s nonverbal response to his question since he was seated far from the stage.
But, he said, the Shangri-La Dialogue was “the right opportunity” to start such a discussion in a room full of defense ministers from across the region.
“I think most countries in the region would really want to ask the Chinese defense minister because there’s always a disconnect with whatever they’re saying, whatever they’re promising, and whatever they’re doing in the West Philippine Sea,” Tarriela said.
Ties between the Philippines and China have soured due to a decades-long maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea, which China claims as part of its territory but is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.