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China using 'information operations' to turn Filipinos against each other — Año

MANILA, Philippines — China is deploying strategic information operations to sow discord among Filipinos, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said on Friday. 

“I have come to realize that China's multifaceted approach includes information operations that are specifically designed to create divisions within our nation,” Año said in his speech during the inauguration of a new Coast Guard station in Pag-asa Island.

This type of operation comes amid the government’s push to “unite the Filipino people in our stance on the West Philippine Sea,” said Año, who also chairs the government’s task force on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In earlier statements, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Philippine Coast Guard Spokesperson Jay Tarriela have also raised alarm over China’s alleged use of information operations to spread false or questionable narratives online amid tensions in the WPS.

RELATED: Coast Guard suspects Chinese ‘state actors’ behind disinformation on WPS | 

In October, Teodoro said that "disinformation and information operators" were in China's playbook of creating a narrative about the WPS favorable to them, while Tarriela earlier said that these information campaigns appeared to be “state-sponsored.”

RELATED: China spending billions to spread disinformation – US report | 

Año said that this kind of strategy cannot be countered with just a militaristic solution and that a “holistic approach” involving different sectors is needed.

“It is critical for us to convey a powerful and united message that counters their falsehoods and unites our fellow Filipinos in this important issue,” the security adviser said.

Last week, Sen. Robin Padilla filed a resolution urging the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) to strengthen its awareness campaign on the country's stake in the West Philippine Sea. 

The resolution highlighted the need for the public to learn about the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China's sweeping claims in parts of the South China Sea, among other legal documents and international conventions relevant to the WPS.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations ruled in 2016 that China's nine-dash line claim