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South China Sea: Philippine admiral’s scandal sparks concerns about Chinese military exchanges, security threats

While the accusations remain unsubstantiated, Carlos’ ties to Beijing have been scrutinised in light of his attendance at a Chinese naval college, where he was the first Filipino military officer to have completed a course there as part of an intergovernmental programme.

Following a request from senators to abort the programme – which was raised after a lawmaker noted “with alarm” that some military officers up for promotion had studied in China – the armed forces’ Chief of Staff Romeo Brawner Jnr said in August the military was no longer sending officers to China.

He also said the point of the programme was to learn best practices from other countries’ militaries to see what could be applied to theirs.

Carlos is on leave from his post as chief of the navy’s Western Command, which guards Palawan and the country’s maritime interests in the West Philippine Sea – Manila’s term for the section of the South China Sea that defines its maritime territory and includes its exclusive economic zone.

Carlos is the most senior Philippine military officer to have once studied in China. In 2008, he took a general staff course at People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Command College in Nanjing.

An alleged audio transcript leaked to select reporters by the embassy claimed that Carlos had confirmed to the embassy that his superiors had approved the new model, which would only allow Manila to deploy one coastguard vessel and a resupply boat to its outpost on the shoal and, in response, China could launch one coastguard ship and a fishing boat.

The accusations have since been strongly denied by a number of Philippine officials and agencies, with some alleging that the embassy’s evidence had been fabricated.

Aaron Jed Rabena, a professorial lecturer at