Amid South China Sea tensions, Philippine military warns public against disinformation efforts

Filipino military leaders caution against what they call false claims as tensions with Beijing rise.
Camille Elemia
Amid South China Sea tensions, Philippine military warns public against disinformation efforts Philippine armed forces chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (center) responds to questions during a press conference in Palawan, June 19, 2024.
Armed Forces of the Philippines

The Philippine military warned the public on Friday against “an alarming surge” in disinformation efforts amid rising tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Such efforts seek to erode public trust in the Philippine armed forces and government by aiming to “sow panic, divide our nation, and distract us from pressing issues that demand our collective attention,” military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a statement

Disinformation “[makes] us vulnerable to external challenges that threaten our national security and stability,” he said.  

Brawner’s statement followed recent social media posts and messages alluding to the row between the two countries over their contending territorial claims in the South China Sea. The military did not identify the source of these posts and messages.

On Wednesday, the military released a screenshot of a June 23 social media post showing photos of an alleged massive shipment of U.S. military supplies to the Philippines. 

The military blurred the source of the Facebook post.

The post, captioned “Thousands of U.S. Ammunition and Weapons Flown to the Philippines,” had been shared nearly 150 times by Friday morning. 

“These images were actually taken during a U.S. aid delivery to Ukraine in 2022,” the Philippine military said.

AFP socmed 1.jpg

The Philippine military describes the screengrab of a Facebook post by an unidentified social media user showing an alleged shipment of U.S. military supplies to the Philippines as “false.” [Armed Forces of the Philippines]

It also pointed to another screenshot of a message which, according to the military, falsely claimed that the armed forces were on “red alert” and had received war equipment. 

The military said this claim was debunked, adding, “The military is currently not on red alert status.”

“We urge the public to verify sources and seek information from credible and official channels,” the military said.

Brawner’s statement came more than a week after a dramatic standoff at sea between the Chinese coast guard and Filipino navy personnel at Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal. 

The June 17 incident, in which a Filipino sailor lost a finger, was the latest and most serious encounter between Manila and Beijing in the contested waters in recent months.

The Philippines runs regular resupply missions to the Sierra Madre, an old navy ship that serves as Manila’s military outpost in the contested waters near Mischief Reef, an artificial island where Beijing built a naval base in the 1990s. 

China has opposed the Philippines’ transportation of construction materials to refurbish the Sierra Madre.

In May, the Philippines said it was investigating allegations that China had violated wiretapping laws during an alleged phone conversation between a Chinese official and a senior Filipino military commander about military resupply missions to Ayungin.

China claims historical rights over most of the South China Sea. A landmark international arbitration ruling in 2016, in a case brought by Manila against Beijing, rejected those claims entirely. 


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