FACT CHECK South China Sea: Waters of Contention

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Online post claiming Wang Yi declared Benham Rise and ‘eastern PH sea’ as Chinese territory a HOAX

Anti-Duterte Facebook page Silent No More PH published fake news on Nov. 14, attributing a fabricated quote to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who supposedly declared the Benham Rise and the “entire eastern Philippine sea” as Chinese territory.

The fake post carried a photo of Wang superimposed with text that read, “We are the first sovereign state who did scientific research and completely mapped the Benham Rise, therefore in behalf of the People’s Republic of China, I, Wang Yi, foreign minister, claim the entire eastern Philippine Sea and declare the Benham Rise as Chinese territory.”

Its caption read, “Dear Fellow Filipinos, Made possible with the all out support of traitor Katay (Killer) Digong! Dati WPS, ngayon pati Benham Rise! Kailan pa kayo magigising sa bangungot nito (Before, it was the West Philippine Sea, now, also the Benham Rise! When will you wake up from this nightmare)?”

There have been no reports from mainstream nor state media about the Chinese foreign minister making such a statement. Online searches of the quote have not produced any results from government institutions and media organizations.

Wang told reporters in March that China will have a “prudent and steady” cooperation with the Philippines on oil and gas exploration. He made the statement after several Filipino lawmakers expressed alarm over reports that several Chinese ships were illegally surveying Benham Rise, located off the eastern coast of Northern Luzon. In January, a Chinese ship granted a permit to conduct research in the area was reported to have committed several violations.

The Philippines obtained “sovereign rights” over the 13-million-hectare underwater landmass after the United Nations approved in 2012 the country’s territorial claim over it. This gave the Philippines the exclusive right to explore and exploit the oil, gas, mineral resources and sedentary species in Benham Rise.

Silent No More PH’s fabricated post coincided with a meeting in Singapore of the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to discuss a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, which is being disputed by the Philippines and three other Asean states, China and Taiwan. The post surfaced a week before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Nov. 20-21 state visit to the country on the invitation of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The fake post could have reached over 891,000 people, with traffic to the post largely coming from the page itself and THE RESISTANCE – FILIPINO DISSENTING VOICES AGAINST DUTERTE REGIME. Silent No More PH was created April 15, 2016.

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