Activists warned against sailing to Panatag
THE Philippine military in northern Luzon warned groups against staging protests in the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) after a group of activists were harassed by Chinese coast guard vessels in the shoal recently.
“Lahat ng mga forces na nandun po sa area talagang doble pa ngayon. We are trying our best….Meron na kaming mga control measures to prevent another situation, another scenario na mangyari,” Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) spokesperson Captain Gina Daet told reporters on Wednesday.
The group “Kalayaan Atin Ito” sailed to the disputed shoal over the weekend, where China tried to stop them from getting close to the shoal.
The group was protesting China’s control of the shoal, and aimed to raise the Philippine flag there.
China has called “an affront to its sovereignty” the recent attempt by 15 Filipino youth activists to plant a Philippine flag on Scarborough Shoal off the province of Zambales to mark Independence Day on June 12.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, saw nothing wrong with the nationalistic attempt by the youth movement to reclaim, albeit symbolically, what is part of Philippine territory.
“The features that they (protesters) planned to go to, all of them are part of our (territory). We have sovereign rights and jurisdictions over those features,” DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said in a news briefing on Monday.
But he stressed the government’s main concern was the safety of the young Filipinos. “They didn’t have to unnecessarily risk their lives,” he said.
Nolcom, Daet said, was earlier informed that a group was interested in going to shoal but was told they were a group of fishermen.
“Naglabas sila ng statement na group [of] fishermen sila, so yung mga kasundaluhan we assumed din na talagang fishermen,” she said.
The spokesperson agreed that it was a patriotic act but at the same time it was also dangerous.
“Act of patriotism na ni-raise nila yung flag natin pero kami sa Nolcom we don’t tolerate that kasi what if nagkaroon ng violent reaction or worse scenario na napahamak sila so at the end kami pa rin ang mananagot,” she said.
Daet said they have already reached out to the group of protesters.
“Nagkaroon kami ng contact, yung sa team leader na wag naman ganun kasi napapasubo din kami pero proud kami for their contribution,” she said.
Huangyan Dao is what China calls Scarborough Shoal, which is also known to Filipinos as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal.
“We urge the Philippines to respect China’s territorial sovereignty and not take any provocative actions,” Lu said in a press briefing in Beijing on June 13, a transcript of which was posted on the Chinese foreign ministry website. With backgrounder from PDI/ac
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