The official state-run news agency of the Philippines posted an article describing the Hague tribunal’s South China Sea ruling in favour of the country an “ill-founded award”.
The editorial, which was sourced from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, was headlined “Time to turn a new leaf on South China Sea issue”.
The sentence that downplayed the arbitration decision read: “More than one year after an ill-founded award at a South China Sea arbitration unilaterally delivered by an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilised and improved thanks to the wisdom and sincerity of China and the parties concerned.”
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim the vast bulk of the disputed waters within its “nine-dash line.”
The ruling was won after a three-year process initiated by the Philippines under the administration of Benigno Aquino III. The proceedings were ignored by Beijing and President Duterte has refused to prioritise the issue.
While the version of the article posted on Xinhua’s website labelled it as a “commentary”, the version posted by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) made no such distinction. The article has since been removed.
Even with President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendship with China, his administration has still promised to uphold the ruling and defend the country’s maritime territory.
The PNA is one of the state-run media agencies under the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
As well a republishing articles from Xinhua, it also uses material from other state-run news agencies including Russian outlets such as Sputnik and the TASS Russian News Agency.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has pledged to investigate how the Chinese article came to be published on the PNA.
“We will take appropriate action against liable PNA officials and/or staff, if they are found to commit negligence in carrying out their duties and responsibilities,” he said in a statement today (Wednesday, August 9).
“All reposts from Xinhua, and all other partner news agencies for that matter, should undergo scrutiny and must be subject to discernment by PNA prior to reposting them.”
The PCOO has sent a memo to the PNA asking the agency to “explain in writing” why its staff should not be held liable for administrative charges.