PH to probe Chinese Coast Guard action vs. Filipino news crew

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MANILA — Malacañang on Monday said the government will investigate reports that Chinese Coast guards barred a Filipino television news crew from conducting interviews in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and urged them to file a formal complaint to allow the Philippine government to take appropriate action.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after footage of the incident aired on the TV network, GMA-7, which was recorded on Nov. 8, a few days before the two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the country.

Panelo said that first, the government should find out what exactly happened in Panatag Shoal and second, it should determine what is the policy of China in terms of conduct of interviews there.

“First, 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 media men from going there or not?’ We don’t know that yet,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

He said if it is true that China is prohibiting interviews by Filipino media, the Philippine government has set in place measures for discuss the concern through negotiation.

“I heard the Coast Guard saying it’s prohibited for you to interview but you’re welcome for fishing activity and interviewing is not a fishing activity,” Panelo said.

“That’s precisely why we have this so-called mechanism for negotiation,” he added.

Panelo also urged GMA-7 to file a letter of complaint, explaining the incident in writing.

“I told them ‘You have to give us a letter complaint expressing your concern so that we can act appropriately’,” Panelo said.

“We will refer your complaint to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and DFA will write the government of China whether or not there is such a policy,” he added.

Panelo, meanwhile, assured that the government will not allow fishermen, the media, and other Filipinos from being harassed by China.

“Hindi tayo papayag siyempre na iha-harass ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino. Kaya kung totoo man yung policy niya e di bahala na si Secretary Locsin. That’s his turf (Of course we won’t allow that our fellow Filipinos are being harassed. If it’s true that they have that policy, it’s up to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.),” Panelo said.

“Anything that is violative of our rights as a nation, anything that violates the rights of our citizens, will always find it objectionable,” he added.

While it is not yet clear whether China committed a violation or not, Panelo said he has already informed Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua about the incident.

“I asked the ambassador of China (Zhao), sabi niya (he said), ‘We have to make formal communication’ also after we receive also formal complaint eh wala pa tayong nari-receive (but we haven’t received any yet),’” Panelo said.

“That was precisely my advice to GMA-7 correspondents, sulatan niyo kami para may basis naman kami (write us so that we have basis),” he added.

In July 2016, the Hague invalidated China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and ruled in favor of the Philippines’ rights over the area. However, China refused to recognize it.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has taken a friendly approach on the issue by engaging China in bilateral talks. -PNA

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