AFP eyes frequent patrols with media in West PH Sea — spokesperson

Published April 14, 2021, 6:09 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

After initially advising journalists to exercise prudence in their ‘insatiable desire to be ahead of reporting’ on the issue of territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) now acknowledged the importance of the work of the media and even assured of partnership in the military’s conduct of maritime patrols.

Photo of Chinese vessels spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 27, 2021
(Photo courtesy of National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea / FILE PHOTO)

All of a sudden, Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, made a 180-degree turn and was now quoted saying that the work of journalists would help in raising public awareness on the situation in the tension-filled waters.

“Iyon pong miyembro ng media bibigyan na rin po natin sila ng pagkakataon na magkaroon silang, at maging bahagi sila kagaya ng dati nating ginagawa. Siguro ngayon mas dadalas-dalasan na lamang natin na magiging bahagi sila kung ano mang patrolya ang ating gagawin (We will give members of the media the chance to conduct their own and join [military patrols] like what we have been doing in the past. Maybe we will increase our patrols with them),” he said in a radio interview over DZBB.

“Hindi po kasi natin pwedeng maliitin ‘yung mga reports na gaya nito, mga larawan at video na ating nakikita sapagkat ito po ang ating mata at tenga eh, araw at gabi (We cannot belittle the pictures and videos that we are seeing [from the media] because they are our eyes and ears through day and night),” he added.

Arevalo’s statement came after no less than AFP chief of staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana awarded journalist Chiara Zambrano over the recent incident in the WPS wherein they were chased by Chinese vessels. The incident exposed China’s use of military vessels in driving away Filipino vessels in the WPS.

Sobejana presented a plaque of recognition to Zambrano at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on April 12.

“Sobejana says they acknowledge the role of journalism in raising public awareness,” Zambrano said in a social media post.

The news crew led by Chiara Zambrano was supposed to talk to fishermen who lost their livelihood due to the presence of over 200 hundred Chinese military vessels and maritime militia in the WPS and Kalayaan Island Group.

Lawmakers and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) have criticized Arevalo for supposedly blaming the ABSCBN news crew instead of calling out and responding to China’s apparent incursion in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).