• China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the CCG used a "'hand-held greenlight pointer"
  • Canada, Germany and the UK followed suit in expressing support for the Philippines
  • The US, Australia and Japan also kicked off international calls to honor the 2016 arbitral ruling

The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) did not shine a laser light on a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel on Feb. 6, Beijing said, as more countries rallied behind the Philippines following the incident at the disputed Ayungin Shoal, which China calls Ren'ai Reef.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Wednesday that during the early February incident, the CCG "used a hand-held laser speed detector and hand-held greenlight pointer to measure the distance and speed of the Philippine vessel and signal directions to ensure navigation safety," as per the Global Times.

Wang said the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines has already "clarified the facts" with the Malacañang, adding that the "diplomatic service and coast guards on both sides are in communication" regarding the matter.

Wang went on to emphasize that the use of the hand-held tool by the CCG "does not inflict damage on anything or anyone on the vessel," contrary to the PCG's claim that the laser caused "temporary blindness" to the crew. He added "the Philippine side's allegation does not reflect the truth," CNN Philippines reported.

The Chinese government's recent comments came as more countries showed support to the Philippines, including Canada and Germany, after the PCG said a CCG vessel shone a "military-grade" laser light at the BRP Malapascua, while it was on a resupply mission.

"Canada underscores its firm & unwavering support for the #Philippines in the face of coercive actions of the People's Republic of #China in the South China Sea," Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines David Hartman said Wednesday.

He also urged China to adhere to the 2016 international arbitral ruling that largely voted in favor of the Philippines regarding the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

An international tribunal had ruled overwhelmingly in July 2016 in favor of the Philippines regarding territorial waters being claimed by China at the WPS. China has repeatedly rejected the said ruling, and has been building up its presence in the region.

German ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel said Germany "shares serious concerns about intimidatory action" against Philippine ships at the WPS, adding the 2016 arbitral decision "is final& legally binding."

The United Kingdom has also joined other countries in urging China to honor The Hague's 2016 ruling, as per a statement shared by the Philippine Star on Twitter.

The United States, Australia and Japan were the first three nations to show support for the Philippines after it lodged a protest regarding the incident.

The U.S. has also reaffirmed its commitment to the Philippines "in upholding the rules-based international maritime order," adding that any armed attack against Philippine armed forces, aircraft, public vessels or Coast Guard ships "would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments."

Meanwhile, PCG spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said the government was reviewing the possibility of arming the Coast Guard's vessels with "big guns."

When asked if Philippine vessels would be armed with weapons similar to their Chinese counterparts, Balilo admitted that "it would consume a lot of money to fund having those guns."

A ship of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea
The Philippines accused the Chinese Coast Guard of blocking a resupply mission at the Ayungin Shoal on Feb. 6. Reuters