Philippine Military Chief Denounces China’s ‘Malign Influence Effort’ Amid South China Sea Tensions

Tensions between the Philippines and China escalated as the Philippine military chief accused Beijing of engaging in a “malign influence effort” following reports of a controversial deal allegedly struck between Filipino and Chinese officials regarding the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.

The Manila Times published what it claimed was a transcript of a phone conversation between a Philippine vice-admiral and Chinese counterparts, detailing an agreement wherein the Philippines would reduce its vessels’ presence during resupply missions to the contested shoal and provide advance notification to Beijing.

While Reuters could not independently verify the contents of the reported transcript, the publication attributed the document to a “ranking Chinese official.” General Romeo Brawner, the military chief, dismissed the purported transcript as a fabrication, labeling it as part of China’s efforts to distract from its aggressive behavior in the region.

China’s embassy in Manila did not offer immediate comment on the transcript, but its Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian asserted the existence of “relevant communications” between the two nations concerning the management of the situation at the Second Thomas Shoal.

The disputed area has been a source of tension, with past confrontations between Chinese coast guard vessels and Philippine counterparts. Despite China’s demands, the Philippines has maintained its presence in the region, supported by allies such as the United States.

The latest accusations and counterclaims underscore the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s expansive claims have drawn criticism and opposition from neighboring countries and the international community.

As both countries navigate the complexities of maritime disputes, the Second Thomas Shoal remains a focal point, symbolizing broader geopolitical tensions and the struggle for control in one of the world’s most strategically significant waterways.