Palace condemned for silence over China harassment on Scarborough Shoal
MANILA, Philippines — Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal on Monday rounded on Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo for saying that China’s reported harassment of a Filipino-crewed commercial vessel near Scarborough Shoal is not a concern of the Philippines.
“Silence on China’s assertion of ‘jurisdiction’ against a Greek vessel, a third party, is effectively a sign of acquiescence to such jurisdiction before such third party; and in this case, due to publicity, effectively before the whole world,” he said in a Twitter post.
Liberian-registered ship Green Aura was reportedly challenged by Chinese coast guard vessels near Scarborough Shoal last Sept. 30. It was manned by some 20 Filipinos.
The Chinese vessel reportedly ordered the commercial ship to change its course because they were in a “Chinese territory.”
The disputed Scarborough Shoal, a small ring of reefs, is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China took control of the shoal in 2012 after a standoff, which later prompted Manila to file a case against Beijing in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The 2016 arbitral ruling declared the shoal as a common fishing ground and Beijing’s all-encompassing nine-dash line claims over the South China Sea is not valid. But China ignored the ruling and continues to control the shoal up to this day.
Panelo said on Sunday that the incident should not concern the Philippines as the the ship was a “foreign vessel, only manned by a Filipino captain.”
“Well, for as long as they do not touch a Philippine ship or vessel, it would be the concern of that country that carries the flag of that particular vessel,” he said.
Batongbacal said Panelo’s remarks is almost similar to implying that the Philippines is not concerned that China exercises jurisdiction over Scarborough against any other state.
“It’s like a person not caring that his house is being managed by someone else who claims to be the owner, and makes other people recognize he is the real owner,” he said.
“When will someone stop Panelo from speaking out of turn on matters of foreign policy?” he added.
Even if it was a foreign vessel, the maritime expert said it was important as the Philippines relies on foreign-flagged vessels for international trade.
“Only 101 ships are registered with the PH flag today; our international trade is carried by foreign ships like this one flagged with Greece,” he pointed out.
“The freedom of the seas (including seamless navigation through all maritime zones) is a concern of ALL maritime trading nations, especially an archipelagic state like the Philippines. China’s actions undermine this freedom, and thus over the long term, threatens Philippine maritime interests,” he added. /je
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