Philippine Military Demands $1M in Reparations From China After Maritime Clash

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Philippine Military Demands $1M in Reparations From China After Maritime Clash

The two sides pledged this week to de-escalate the situation after a June 17 clash at a disputed shoal in the Spratly Islands.

Philippine Military Demands $1M in Reparations From China After Maritime Clash

In this handout photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office, Philippine military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. talks during a conference with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines on Thursday July 4, 2024.

Credit: Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office via AP

The Philippine military has demanded that China pay the country 60 million pesos (around $1 million) in reparations following a violent confrontation at a disputed shoal last month.

Gen. Romeo Brawner, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), told reporters in a briefing that the demand will cover damages to a boat and communications equipment that were damaged in the June 17 clash.

“I demanded the return of seven firearms that were taken by the Chinese coast guard,” Brawner said during the briefing. “They destroyed our equipment and when we estimated the cost of the damage, it’s 60 million pesos.”

The clash, which the AFP later likened to “an act of piracy,” ensued when China Coast Guard personnel on motorboats repeatedly rammed and then boarded two Philippine rigid-hulled inflatable boats that were delivering supplies, including firearms, to the Philippine garrison at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands. In the ensuing melee, a number of Filipino navy personnel were wounded, including one who reportedly lost his right thumb. Two days after that incident, Brawner demanded that Beijing return “our weapons and equipment” and pay for damages. He added that the compensation does not include the surgery cost to the sailor who lost a finger during the confrontation.

“We’re also looking into the possibility of charging them with the cost for restructuring the hand of Seaman First Class Jeffrey Facundo,” he said. “He will need an operation to be able to restore his hand’s motor function.”

The incident was the most serious to have taken place over the past two years, as China has attempted to isolate the Philippine garrison, which is stationed aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a warship that Manila purposely grounded on the shoal in 1999.

Referring to his meeting with Marcos, Brawner said yesterday that the AFP had presented the president with several options for how to carry out resupply operations at Second Thomas Shoal, though he did not give any details.

“The end goal is still to be able to bring supplies to our troops…to be able to practice freedom of navigation and overflight, without necessarily escalating the situation you’re in,” Brawner said, adding that Marcos had ordered the AFP to take steps aimed at defusing tensions in the South China Sea.

This is consistent with the undertakings made by Philippine and Chinese officials at a meeting in Manila on Tuesday, when the two sides “affirmed their commitment to de-escalate tensions without prejudice to their respective positions.” At the same time, the Philippines stressed that it would be “relentless in protecting its interests and upholding its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea.”

The official readouts from the meeting did not reference Manila’s compensation request, and it will almost certainly be rejected by the Chinese government, which despite Tuesday’s meeting, continues to project a stern and unyielding position on the South China Sea.

“The Philippines should bear the consequences of its infringing behavior,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a briefing yesterday, Reuters reported yesterday. She said the Philippine side “was the first to provoke by illegally transporting supplies” to Second Thomas Shoal.

She added, “we will never sit idly by and watch our legitimate rights and interests and regional peace and stability being violated and threatened.”