Philippines sorry for ‘grievous’ error that saw it use Taiwan symbol in ceremony with Chinese military
Officials’ faux pas happened at ceremony to receive weapons from Beijing
The Philippines apologised to China on Monday for a “grievous but purely unintentional” mistake after it used a Taiwanese logo at a ceremony to receive arms and ammunition from Beijing.
The diplomatic faux pas went largely unnoticed until photos of the event started circulating on social media.
A banner used in the ceremony, attended by China’s ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, said the arms had been provided by the Ministry of National Defence in Beijing.
But the logo used alongside that of the Philippine defence department was that of its Taiwanese equivalent.
The government in Beijing regards Taiwan as an integral part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island back under its control.
Manila’s Department of National Defence (DND) assured China that it still adheres to the “One China Policy”.
“We have issued an official apology to the government and the people of the People’s Republic of China,” the DND said in a statement.
“It is our sincere hope that this very unfortunate incident will not affect the cooperative and friendly relations between our two countries, which have grown warmer over the past year,” it said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila could not be reached for comment.
A similar mistake happened in October 2001, when Britain’s Royal Navy greeted a flotilla from China’s East Sea Fleet with the Taiwanese flag.
The visit to Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, was the first time a PLA fleet had visited a British port.
The weapons that were handed over last Thursday were the second consignment sent from China after the United States blocked a planned sale of assault rifles to the Philippines last year.
The donated weapons – some of which will be used to fight terrorism – include 3,000 assault rifles, 3 million rounds of assorted ammunition, and 30 sniper scopes.
The rifles, valued at US$3.3 million, will go to the Philippine National Police. Last year the US blocked the sale of about 26,000 M4 rifles amid concerns about possible police human rights violations committed during the anti-drug campaign ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
China’s first round of supplies to the Philippines was delivered in June and included more than 3,000 assault and sniper rifles and nearly 6 million rounds of ammunition.
The military held on to the sniper rifles but passed the other guns on to the police.
Despite long-standing territorial disputes over the South China Sea, ties between China and the Philippines have warmed under Duterte’s administration.
Additional reporting by Reuters