“Philippine Military Supports China’s ‘New Model’ for Ayungin Shoal Tensions”

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Insights and Commentary on the Chinese Official’s Presentation

In a recent development, a ranking Chinese official presented a recorded phone conversation between an embassy diplomat and Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, Chief of the Western Command (WESCOM) of the Philippine military. The conversation highlighted the “new model” proposed by China for peacefully managing the situation in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

While it is important to note that the authenticity of the recording has not been immediately confirmed, as Vice Admiral Carlos was on personal leave at the time, it raises significant questions about the involvement of the Philippine military in this proposed “new model.”

Confirmation of the Proposal by Philippine Officials

According to the recording made on January 3, 2024, Vice Admiral Carlos expressed agreement with the Chinese diplomat regarding the proposal. He mentioned that his superiors, including Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner, had given their approval to implement the proposal.

It is worth mentioning that the proposal, as stated by the Chinese official, focuses on peace and stability rather than sovereignty. The “new model” consists of four points aimed at managing the situation in Ayungin Shoal.

The Four Points of the “New Model”

The first point of the proposal, known as the “1 1” model, suggests that both the Philippines and China would send only one vessel each during resupply missions to Philippine troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin. The Philippines would deploy one Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel and one supply ship, while China would dispatch one China Coast Guard vessel and one China Maritime Militia ship to the area.

Additionally, the proposal suggests that the Philippines should notify China two days in advance of any resupply mission. Furthermore, only food and essential supplies would be transported, and constant communication between the two sides would be maintained.

Implementation of the Proposal and Unilateral Discontinuation

According to the Chinese official, the Philippines successfully conducted a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin on February 2, 2024, without any incident. The Chinese embassy official even highlighted a social media post by AFP spokesman Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, praising the flawless execution of the rotation and resupply operation.

However, the Chinese official expressed disappointment that the “new model” was unilaterally discarded by the Philippine side without any reason or explanation. Col. Padilla clarified that Vice Admiral Carlos’ post was temporarily assumed by Rear Admiral Alfonso Torres Jr. due to Carlos’ personal leave. Padilla mentioned that Carlos’ reasons for going on leave were not disclosed.

While it is crucial to respect an individual’s decision to take personal leave, it is worth noting that the area under the Western Command’s jurisdiction, including Ayungin Shoal, holds critical importance. Therefore, there is a need for a senior officer to supervise WESCOM in an acting capacity during Carlos’ absence.

The Philippine Government’s Response

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) clarified that no cabinet-level official of the Marcos administration agreed to any Chinese proposal concerning Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This statement from the DFA emphasizes that the Philippine government did not endorse or accept the proposed “new model” presented by the Chinese official.

It is essential to consider the diplomatic implications of this phone conversation and the subsequent reactions from the Philippine government. The situation in Ayungin Shoal remains a point of contention between China and the Philippines, with the latter asserting its sovereignty and rights in the area.

As this issue unfolds, it is crucial for both countries to engage in open and transparent dialogue to address their respective concerns and find a mutually beneficial resolution. The international community will closely monitor the developments and hope for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the situation in Ayungin Shoal.

Source: The Manila Times

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