The military on Thursday brushed aside as a “malicious rumor” a report that a Chinese warship fired at a Philippine Air Force aircraft over the West Philippine Sea.
“We strongly deny that any of our military planes was fired upon by a Chinese vessel while flying to Pag-asa Island to pick a patient. Firing incident in the West Philippine Sea is a serious matter that must not be subject to malicious rumors,” said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces Public Affairs Office.
The alleged incident was leaked out by former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan 3rd on his social networking site account.
was in the Philippine-occupied Pagasa island in the Kalayaan (Spratly) Island Group, Alunan said the Chinese ship fired an “illumination round” the PAF aircraft last Sunday, prompting the military to ground all military flights over the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
“There was a near disastrous incident between a Chinese frigate and a PAF patrol aircraft early Monday. The frigate fired an illumination round on the PAF aircraft which necessitated grounding all military flights into the WPS,” Alunan said.
“Firing that illumination round was provocative. If we can’t retaliate at sea, hit them back on land!” he added.
But the Armed Forces spokesman insisted there was no such incident.
“What the AFP can confirm Cabunoc said was that the Western Command (Wescom) was requested and scheduled to pick up a sick radio enthusiast identified as Chito Pastor using a Nomad plane from Pag-asa Island.
“However, they were not able to provide air assets due to technical problems,” he explained.
Cabunoc said the Wescom instead allowed Pastor’s family to send a civilian plane to evacuate him to to Puerto Princesa City at 1 p.m. Thursday.
A report on the online news site Interaksyon quoting the Wescom chief, however, confirmed that an incident involving Chinese vessels and a Philippine military aircraft did occur.
Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez, chief of the Western Command (Westcom), confirmed that Chinese vessels drove a patrol aircraft of the Philippine Navy away from Kagitingan (Subi) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
“But it’s not true that our Islander was fired upon by the frigate-class Chinese ship,” Lopez said. “Nagra-radyo pa sila na umalis sa Kagitingan dahil teritoryo daw ito ng China. Yan ang tunay na nangyari sa Kagitingan (They contacted us by radio, telling us to leave and claiming that the place was Chinese territory. That was what actually happened at Kagitingan),’ Lopez added.