By Francis Wakefield
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo assured that incidents similar to what happened to GMA-7 News reporter Jun Veneracion and his crew are not being neglected by the military.
“Let me do this by saying hindi naman natin pinagsasawalang kibo, pinagsasawalang bahala ang mga insidenteng ganyan subalit tandaan po natin hindi lang AFP ang unit ng pmahalaan na tumatalakay sa gantong suliranin at nagbibigay solusyon (its not we don’t want to give any reaction or neglecting incidents such as that, but we should remember it is not only the AFP which is the unit that discusses and provides solution to this kind of problem),” Arevalo said.
“This has to be addressed thorugh inter-agency efforts and the AFP is just one of them. So I would like to defer to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) para sila magbigay ng tuwirang comment sa bagay na yan on the part of AFP (for them to give comment on that on behalf of the AFP),” he added.
GMA News’ Jun Veneracion earlier reported that his team had a close encounter with the Chinese Coast Guard when their cameras started rolling as they inched closer to the reef.
Panatag Shoal is 124 nautical miles off Masinloc, Zambales, making it well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
The Chinese Coast Guard approached them when they sailed closer to their destination together with a group of Filipino fishermen who accompanied them to Panatag Shoal.
The Chinese crew members who hollered at them and prohibited them from venturing further claimed that they were “in the sea area of the People’s Republic of China.”
Senators also expressed their concern over reports that the Chinese Coast Guard barred GMA-7 from filming a documentary at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed that no less than former United States Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reminded him to “exercise restraint” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) one week before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.
This after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague, Netherlands, ruled in favor of the Philippines stating that it has “sovereign rights” over the marine resources in the
Lorenzana’s comment was made in a speech he delivered at a forum hosted by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati City with the topic “Maritime Disputes in the South China Sea: Navigating the Diplomatic Waters.”
“A week before the administration took over on June 30, 2016 and the arbitral ruling came out in July 2016, I got this call from Defense Secretary Carter of the United States and what he said was the ruling will come out soon “And we think it is in your favor”. And he said “Please, exercise restrain”. I said what do you mean restrain?” Lorenzana said.
“I was thinking to myself do we have the capability to look for trouble there but its very significant that I was called by the US Secretary of defense of us to restrain our actions,” he added.
Lorenzana said prior to the call, he was thinking of calling the Philippine Navy to ask them to send a small force to Panatag Shoal in order to drive away the Chinese there
“But when the time to announced it (came) we were all in Malacañang so when the time came out we had this meeting with the president and it was decided that let us do it as a soft planning. We should not be overly celebrating because we might offend China,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said so when the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jun Yasay announced the country won the arbitral ruling, there was criticism on him on how he delivered the message as he was very serious and somber, not the victorious type.