Top Philippine General Says Troops Will Match Chinese Tactics if Assaulted

China Coast Guard servicemember threatens a Philippine soldier with an axe, June 17 (AFP)
China Coast Guard servicemember threatens a Philippine soldier with an axe, June 17 (AFP)

Published Jul 4, 2024 6:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

In comments to the press on Thursday, the Philippine military's top officer said that if Chinese forces assaulted Philippine troops in the South China Sea again, his forces would respond in kind - not with the restraint they showed last time. 

"What we’ll do is we will apply the same level of force that would allow us to defend ourselves," Armed Forces of the Philippines commander Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said. "If a knife is used, for example, our personnel will also use a knife, nothing more, under the concept of proportionality."

In the last incident at Second Thomas Shoal, the China Coast Guard assaulted two Philippine Navy speedboats that were carrying out a supply run to the BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded tank landing ship that serves as a makeshift base on the reef. Eight CCG boat crews came equipped with axes, knives and spears, and they brandished these weapons while ramming and seizing the Philippine speedboats. Eight AFP servicemembers were injured in the assault - which Manila has carefully described as "not an attack," because firearms were not used - and one soldier lost his thumb when his RHIB was rammed by a Chinese boat. 

"When I said that we’ll fight back, I meant we won’t allow ourselves to be bullied . . . just like what happened the last time because, of course, our adversaries had weapons," he warned. 

Brawner also demanded that China repay the AFP for damage to the Philippine Navy boats, which he estimated at $1 million. The cost of reconstructing the injured soldier's thumb would be in addition, and the AFP may later send China the bill for that too, he said. Brawner also called for the CCG to return seven rifles that were seized from Philippine soldiers during the altercation. 

The Philippines' political leaders and diplomats have sounded a more cautious note, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered the AFP to maintain a policy of "de-escalation" in interactions with Chinese forces, Brawner said. The general emphasized that the Philippines wants to "avoid war."