By Genalyn Kabiling
The government will never tolerate any harassment of Filipinos here or abroad, Malacañang said Monday amid plans to probe the incident involving the Chinese coast guards and a local television crew in Panatag Shoal.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) would look into the incident that the foreign coast guards allegedly barred a GMA-7 television crew from entering Panatag Shoal.
The government would also try to find out if China has an existing policy prohibiting journalists from conducting interviews in the area, according to Panelo.
“There is an investigation…We have to validate what happened there,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
“Hindi tayo papayag na hina-harass tayo kahit saang lugar, ke sa bansa natin o sa bansa nila [We will not allow anyone to harass us in any place, whether in our country or their country],” he said.
He assured that the government finds “objectionable” any action that violates the country’s rights. “Anything that is violative of our rights as a nation, anything that violates of our citizens, we will always find it objectionable,” he said.
Asked if the latest Panatag incident violated the country’s rights, Panelo said : We don’t know it yet. Baka yung coast guard lang yun, baka sarili lang niya na banat yun [Maybe it was just the coast guard making such threat].”
A television crew tried to sail towards Panatag Shoal, located within the country’s exclusive economic zone, but were reportedly blocked by two Chinese coast guard boats.
The Chinese coast guards reportedly told the Filipino crew to leave China’s territory, saying they must get permission from China to conduct interviews. The crew left the area to ease the tension.
Panelo said he texted Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to seek his comment about the incident. The ambassador told him about the existing diplomatic process where the DFA files a formal communication to the Chinese government.
Panelo encouraged the television network to file a formal complaint about the incident so the government could take the next appropriate course of action. Once GMA-7 sends a letter complaint, Panelo said the government would refer the matter to the DFA.
“We have to validate whether or not—because according to that Coast Guard, it was prohibited. I said, is it a policy of China to prohibit mediamen from going there or not? We don’t know that yet,” he said.
“The DFA will write the government of China whether or not there is such a policy,” he added.
He noted that the Chinese coast guards thought “they own that place so they’re showing that they own it by making prohibitions on certain acts.”
Panelo, meantime, said President Duterte has called for self-restraint in the South China Sea to avoid the escalation of the territorial dispute.
The government has also pressed for the completion of a code of conduct of parties, that includes freedom of navigation, to keep peace and stability in the region, according to Panelo.