VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB Live claiming Duterte and US ‘joined forces to drive China out of WPS’ MISLEADING

A 22-minute video on Facebook claiming in its title that the Philippines has “joined forces” with the United States to drive Chinese vessels out of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is misleading.

The clip, being passed off as “breaking news”, spliced a recent news report with a 2017 statement of President Rodrigo Duterte on the country’s territorial dispute with China.

Facebook page Philippines trendinh news posted the video as (FB) Live on April 23. The first clip used the April 21 report by Bomboradyo Philippines saying the U.S. is only “waiting for [the Philippines] to call” for its help “in removing or asking” vessels positioned in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to leave. This was according to Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez in an April 20 press briefing.

The second clip played on loop is a speech of Duterte from May 2017, where he said he won’t fight China over its claims to the WPS unless America and member states of the United Nations are also “willing to fight.”

He also insisted in the same speech that it was not yet time to discuss with Beijing the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling which invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in areas in the WPS, as this will only lead to the declaration of war.

Four years later, Duterte’s stance on the issue remains the same.

In his latest comment about the reported presence of about 240 vessels manned by the Chinese Maritime Militia in Philippine waters, Duterte said that getting back the WPS from China “would be bloody” as the Philippines is “not in the possession of the sea.”

He also claimed that the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the U.S. only covers situations when either country is “being attacked and assaulted” and not when one initiated the “war” — ruling out the possibility of the U.S. “[going] to war because of the Philippine Sea.”

Duterte’s April 19 statement made no mention of any decision about “joining forces” with America. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque even lamented how the U.S. “could have come to our aid” when the Philippines lost its islands in the past, but did not.

Philippines trendinh news’ video came two days after the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said the government will be deploying more vessels and an aircraft in the area “to sustain sovereignty patrols” and increase the safety of operations against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

The Chinese government insists on its ownership of areas in the Philippines’ EEZ. In an April 26 press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin called for the Philippines to “respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.”

The misleading FB Live has already been viewed more than 1.7 million times by netizens, receiving over 52,000 reactions, 4,600 comments, 7,500 shares. Traffic to the post largely came from page Philippines trendinh news itself, and public groups RUN SARA RUN for PRESIDENT and Ara Eusebio Fans.

Philippines trendinh news, which claims it is a “source of news and trivia” about “Pinoy Showbiz celebrities,” was created in April 2020.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)