Opposition refutes Palace’s ‘publicity stunt’ remark; dares other bets to go to Scarborough
MANILA, Philippines — Opposition senatorial candidates refuted Malacañang’s claim that their planned visit to the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal was just a “publicity stunt.”
On Monday, they dared all senatorial bets to join them in a symbolic act of asserting Philippines’ rights over the territory.
The opposition also denounced the Duterte administration for blocking their planned visit to the Scarborough Shoal and plant a Philippine flag there as a “symbolic positive step” to the arbitral award granted to the Philippines in 2016.
They said the Philippine Coast Guard “refused to give the boat owners permit if there is recording equipment in the rented boat, and warned that the equipment would be confiscated” but the Coast had denied this.
“Walang pagbabawal doon. Hindi kailangan ng permit doon (There is no prohibition there. They don’t need a permit),” PCG spokesperson Captain Armando Balilo said.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo downplayed it as a mere “publicity stunt.”
“Ang issue ng West Philippine Sea ay hindi dapat sa oposisyon lang. Issue ito ng buong Pilipinas, so kasama dyan ang kandidato ng administrasyon, at dito natin malalaman kung may pagmamahal ba sila sa maliliit na mangingisda o wala,” former congressman and senatorial aspirant Erin Tañada said in an interview in Iloilo City.
(The West Philippine Sea is not the issue of the opposition alone. It’s an issue that concerns the whole country as well as the administration candidates. We can test here if they care for the Filipino fishermen.)
“Magsama-sama tayong pumunta sa West Philippine Sea, at igiit ang ating soberanya,” he added.
(Let us join hands and go to the West Philippine Sea and assert our sovereignty.)
Marawi civic leader and peace advocate Samira Gutoc said that instead of assailing them, officials should heed the call of the fishermen seeking help to gain access to their source of livelihood.
“Hindi kami nag-iimbento ng impormasyon, ang issue dito ay hindi publicity stunt, kundi dapat harapin ng mga officials ang hinaing ng mga mangingisda tungkol sa limited access nila sa karagatan,” Gutoc said.
(We are not inventing information. The issue here is that this is not a publicity stunt. Our officials should address the problems of our fishermen regarding their limited access to our seas.)
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano for his part urged President Rodrigo Duterte to assert the country’s rights over its territory.
“Ang aming ginawa ay isang simbolo ng paghamon sa ating Presidente na once and for all tayuan ang karapatan natin sa West Philippine Sea. Pero hindi gera ang kasagutan, kundi tingnan ang kapakanan ng ating mga mangingisda at tingnan ito sa kaparaanang confrontative pero inaassert ang ating karapatan,” Alejano added.
(What we are doing is a symbolic challenge to our President to stand up for our rights in the West Philippine Sea. War is not the answer if we consider the welfare of our fishermen. Let us assert our rights.)
For former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, if there’s any publicity stunt, it was Duterte’s campaign promise to ride a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag on the islands and formations in the West Philippine Sea.
“Iyon ang ginamit nya nung tumatakbo siya, at naniwala ang milyon-milyong Pilipino na iyon ang kanyang simbolo sa kanyang pagtindig… Kaya yung ginawa namin hindi publicity stunt, we are just calling out the president for a promise that he made… We are making him accountable,” Hilbay explained.
(That’s what he promised when he was running for office, and millions of Filipinos take that as a symbol of his affirmation of the need to assert our rights. So what we intend to do is not a publicity stunt. We are just calling out the president for a promise that he made…We are making him accountable.)
Alejano said they plan to return to Scarborough Shoal with a formal request to the Coast Guard.
He said the Coast Guard had required all fishermen to submit a manifesto before sailing and they want to see if there are other people in the list, including members of the media.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea (SCS) and decided that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (a part of the SCS).
The Philippines filed its case in January 2013 following a tense standoff between Chinese and Philippines ships at Scarborough Shoal in April 2012. /ee
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