VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video on ‘16 US-JP-PH ships’ entering West Philippine Sea MISLEADS

Sixteen warships of the United States, Japan and the Philippines have entered the West Philippine Sea.

Facebook page Proudly Filipino 03/15/2024 Misleading

The video used clips from 2017 and 2023 operations involving the United States, Japan and the Philippines. It also exaggerated the number of ships that participated.

A Facebook (FB) reel claims that 16 warships of the United States, Japan and the Philippines have entered the West Philippine Sea in a “high-alert” situation. This is misleading.

The reel combined video clips of U.S. and Japanese warships transiting the Philippine Sea in 2017, and scenes from trilateral maritime exercises in 2023. 

Uploaded on March 16, the one-minute and 30-second video compiled several clips of ships sailing in formation and carried this text: 

“High Alert! 16 US, Japanese, and Philippine Warships Entered the WEST PHILIPPINE SEA. ATIN ITO (THIS IS OURS).

A YouTube channel first posted the same set of clips three months ago bearing a similar caption, only with the text “South China Sea” instead of the “West Philippine Sea.” 

The video combined clips from 2017 and 2023 maritime operations involving the U.S., Japan and the Philippines where a total of eight, not 16, ships participated in two different maritime events. 

Some clips show two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers and four U.S. ships in transit within the Philippine waters on April 28, 2017. The footage uploaded by the U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images bore this caption: 

“In this handout footage provided by U.S. Department of Defense, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers JS Ashigara (DDG 178) and JS Samidare (DD 106), the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transit the Philippine Sea.” 

Scenes from the first trilateral at-sea engagements in the South China Sea among the U.S., Japan and the Philippine coast guards in June 2023 were also shown. Four ships – U.S. Coast Guard’s STRATTON (WMSL 752), Japan Coast Guard’s Akitsushima (PLH 32), and PCG’s Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702) and Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) – participated in the event. 

The FB reel circulated amid reports of China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia vessels’ continuing harassment and blocking of Philippine ships in resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre outpost at Ayungin Shoal.

President Ferdinand Marcos is also set to attend the first trilateral summit of the three nations on April 11. The leaders will discuss maritime cooperation, infrastructure development and trade and investments, among others. 

According to reports, Japanese representatives will also participate as observers in the annual Balikatan Exercise between the Philippines and the United States from April 22 to May 8. 

VERA Files Fact Check previously debunked an erroneous video claiming that U.S. and Philippine fighter jets released bombs over Scarborough Shoal to make China panic. (Read Video FALSELY claims US, PH jets dropped bombs over Scarborough Shoal)

The reel uploaded by the FB page Proudly Filipino (created on Aug. 29, 2020) has 48,700 reactions, 3,800 comments and 4,100 shares and 1,100,000 views as of writing.

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Fill out this reader request form or send it to VERA, the truth bot on Viber.

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