The Department of National Defense (DND) has instructed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command to investigate the pursuit of Chinese Navy missile boats on Filipino fishermen’s boat in the West Philippine Sea, where the ABS-CBN News team is also aboard.
“The Defense Department has directed the AFP through its Western Command to investigate, gather, and validate all the relevant facts on the incident, the outcome of which will be used to coordinate any appropriate action through the NTF-WPD and engagement among the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), DND, DOTr and other concerned agencies,” said DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong.
The AFP also expressed concern and said they were asking for a copy of footage and photos of the incident as part of the investigation.
“The AFP expresses concern over the report of an alleged harassment by Chinese Navy vessels and a Chinese coast guard vessel as reported by a team of journalist on board a watercraft within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” said AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgar Arevalo.
Vice President Leni Robredo was disappointed with what she saw, especially since it happened inside the EEZ of the Philippines.
Robredo urged the government to use the case won against China in 2016 in an international tribunal.
Chinese missile boats chasing Filipino boats in West PH Sea will be investigated
“It’s an opportunity we have not taken advantage of, we have not maximized… When you watch the video, nakakagalit, nakakadurog ng puso, na nangyayari iyon within our territory,” said Robredo.
The DFA will also contact the task force for details of the incident.
For maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, the DFA should protest the incident, especially since this is the first time China has used a military ship to intimidate Filipino civilians.
“Wala namang rason para ganunin nila ang isang Filipino vessel. Wala namang threat na nire-represent ang Filipino vessel. Pabalik na nga ng Palawan eh. Bakit pa nila kailagan gawin iyon? Umatras na nga sila noong makita nila ang coast guard so bakit kailangan pang pakitaan ng mga missile boat?” said Batongbacal, director of UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
The Senate leadership supported the review of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
Top Philippine and American diplomats agreed on more intensified cooperation in the South China Sea, which China has widely claimed.