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7:40 pm on 23 November 2022, Wednesday
By Raheema Velasco
United States Vice President Kamala Harris met with Philippine Coast Guard on Tuesday, declaring that we back the Philippines in asserting their maritime rights amid the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
"We will continue to rally our allies and partners against unlawful and irresponsible behavior. When the international rules-based order is threatened somewhere, it is threatened everywhere" Harris said during her visit in Palawan.
"We must uphold international rules and norms. And that is why our work here is so very important. We must stand up for principles such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Harris is the highest-ranking US official to set foot in Tagburos, Palawan, a village closest to the Spratly Islands, part of the West Philippine Sea.
The tension between both parties boils down to an incident last Sunday near Pag-asa Island.
Philippine military commander said that a Chinese coast guard ship "forcefully retrieved" rocket debris being towed by a Philippine vessel in the West Philippine Sea.
But in contrast, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning denied the allegations and said that "people from the Philippines side salvaged and towed the floating object first."
"After both sides had a friendly negotiation at the scene, the Philippines handed over the floating object to us," she added.
"It was not a situation in which we waylaid and grabbed the object. There was no so-called blocking of the course of a Philippine Navy boat."
Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos reported that the object was spotted about 800 yards (730 meters) west of Pag-asa Island.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos announced that he plans to send a note verbale to China after contrasting reports from the Chinese Embassy and Philippine military regarding the Pag-asa Island incident.
“Hindi nagtugma ‘yung report ng Philippine Navy at saka ‘yung report na galing sa China because the word forcibly was used in the Navy – in the Philippine Navy report. And that was not the characterization in the Chinese navy report or the report coming from China," Marcos said.
(The Philippine Navy report and the report from China did not match because the word forcibly was used in the Navy - in the Philippine Navy report. And that was not the characterization in the Chinese navy report or the report coming from China.)
Note verbale is an unsigned diplomatic note written in the third person, of the nature of a memorandum but sometimes considered more formal.
2016 Hague ruling
In 2016, the international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea dispute.
The 479-page ruling rejected Beijing's sweeping claims over the contested sea and recognized Philippine sovereignty rights within its exclusive economic zone.
But since then, China has continued to ignore the ruling, saying it is "illegal and invalid."