President Rodrigo Duterte said he was unaware of the harassment of Filipino troops by Chinese forces at Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly archipelago last month, which Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines had protested.
In a talk with reporters at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday night after returning from an official visit to South Korea, the President was asked if it was true that he was angry with China because of the incident.
“I don’t know about that incident. I was busy talking to Korean officials,” the President said, asking what happened at Ayungin Shoal.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque helped to explain the incident to the President.
Roque said Chinese forces harassed Filipino troops delivering supplies to the Filipino garrison on BRP Sierra Madre, the rusting naval hospital ship that the government grounded on Ayungin Shoal, internationally known as Second Thomas Shoal, in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratly archipelago after China seized Panganiban (Mischief) Reef four years earlier.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of it,” the President said.
May 11 incident
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano reported the incident during a May 30 congressional briefing on recent developments in the South China Sea territorial disputes.
Alejano, a former Marine officer, said the incident happened on May 11.
He said Philippine Navy personnel were delivering supplies to the Marine garrison on BRP Sierra Madre from a rubber boat when they were challenged by Chinese coast guards.