The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said China’s accusation that Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) destroyed and seized fishing nets of its fisherfolk is just part of its “malign influence” tactic.

“This latest accusation is yet another example of China’s malign influence operation, which seeks to distract from the real issue at hand: their ongoing illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions and activities in the West Philippine Sea,” AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said in a message to reporters.

She said Manila remains committed to upholding its sovereignty and protecting its sovereign rights in the WPS.

“We will not dignify these claims with a detailed response. It is important to reiterate that the presence of Chinese vessels within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is illegal and provocative. The Philippines has sovereign rights over these waters, as recognized under international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Padilla added.

China’s state news agency Xinhua reported that Philippine Navy troops from the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) in Ayungin Shoal have been destroying and cutting the nets of Chinese fisherfolk in adjacent waters. (PNA)