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AFP to support law enforcement in WPS; PCG warns of ‘trolls’

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is ready to support law enforcement in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), but added Monday that it will practice maximum tolerance in “addressing challenges from foreign forces.”

Meanwhile, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official warned of an increase in pro-China trolls and influencers on social media as the Philippine government continues to expose Beijing’s intrusive and coercive actions in the WPS.

AFP spokesman Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said the military is eager to extend support to the Philippine Coast Guard and other maritime law enforcement agencies in their operations in the disputed waters.

“The AFP supports the maritime law enforcement operation of the PCG and other maritime law enforcement agencies. For our part, any challenges faced from foreign forces are addressed with utmost professionalism and we will practice maximum tolerance,” Padilla told reporters.

The AFP issued these statements on the heels of the latest incident between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal.

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Philippine authorities accused the China Coast Guard of attempting to block a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ vessel, the BRP Datu Sanday, which was delivering supplies to fishermen near Bajo de Masinloc. The incident happened on February 22, the PCG reported.

Padilla stressed that the military will remain committed to protecting the country’s people and territory.

Meanwhile, PCG spokesperson for the WPS affairs Commodore Jay Tarriela said China was utilizing various social media platforms to undermine the Philippines’ assertive initiatives in the WPS.

“The approach now of China to counter the transparency strategy of the PH government, particularly the NTF-WPS, is to carry out information operations to have more trolls and pro-China mouthpieces to sow disinformation among Filipinos and for them to divide our country and not be united against China,” Tarriela said in an interview on Teleradyo Serbisyo.

“Also, with the narrative, observe how some of our known influencers—I won’t be giving names—how they align with the unidentified trolls. They have the same story and arguments, and they are amplifying these kinds of disinformation,” he added

Tarriela maintained that the Philippine initiatives have been “effective in uniting Filipinos and countering China’s increased disinformation” on the WPS.

“The reason why there’s a possibility the pro-China trolls will heighten is because we know for a fact that since we started the transparency strategy on WPS, we have become very effective in educating the Filipino people and sharing the right information to the international community.”

“As a matter of fact, more than 70 percent of Filipinos, based on the recent survey, support the approach of President Marcos in exposing Chinese aggression in the WPS,” Tarriela said.

“The same thing with the international community. More countries now are becoming more vocal and supportive of the AFP modernization, and even the PCG,” he noted.

The Philippine government announced the transparency initiative after the China Coast Guard used a military-grade laser against a Philippine patrol vessel near Ayungin Shoal in February last year.

Now in its second year, Tarriela said the National Task Force on the WPS will continue to expose China’s aggression.

“The commitment of not just the PCG but the entire NTF-WPS is for us to sustain itong transparency initiative we are doing to continuously expose the aggressive actions of the PRC, their illegal presence and the bullying tactics against our fishermen are uniting our nation,” Tarriela stressed.

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