Panelo: Invoking PH rights on China ‘harassment’ in Scarborough may affect Filipino mariners
MANILA, Philippines—After saying that the reported China’s harassment of a Filipino-manned commercial vessel near Scarborough Shoal is not the Philippines’ concern, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo is now claiming that invoking the country’s sovereign rights over the incident would affect the employment of Filipino seafarers and mariners.
This was Panelo’s response to maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal’s series of tweets that slammed as “ill-advised” his reaction to the incident.
READ: Palace condemned for silence over China harassment on Scarborough Shoal
Panelo downplayed the incident involving the Greek-owned oil tanker Green Aura, noting that the ship “just happened” to have a Filipino captain.
The Palace official said if the government invoke its sovereignty to protest the incident, it will be putting “at risk the employment of more than 400,000 deployed Filipino seafarers and mariners, by sending a message to shipping companies of our country’s inclination to meddle with or interfere into their own maritime affairs for the sole reason that a Filipino is under their employ.”
The Liberian-flagged ship was reportedly challenged by Chinese coast guard vessels near Scarborough Shoal last Sept. 30. It was manned by some 20 Filipinos.
Panelo also took a swipe at the maritime expert’s “amusing habit of ignoring the dynamics of the issues on the ground, in an attempt to be relevant in expressing his square theories he learned from his books.”
“Mr. Batongbacal will be better off if he sticks his perorations in his classroom,” he said.
Panelo likewise pointed out that the Philippines cannot deprive the country of being represented by the oil tanker of its right to protect its own ship.
“Such a demeanor will be a disrespect to it and even insulting to the capability of that country to assert its right,” he said.
Panelo also claimed that “there was no threat to the lives of our countrymen despite the ship Captain’s engaging in retorts about an issue sensitive to our foreign relations concerning our seas.”
“In this particular instance, invoking our state’s dominion is unnecessary,” he stressed.
Panelo added that the government’s actions should not be “motivated by the play of politics aggravated by some media outfits’ penchant to churn out interesting articles for their readers.”
“Falling into such lure will only result in unproductive and disruptive knee jerk reactions, if we are to react to every incident perceived to be an affront, no matter how disconnected the same is to the issue of sovereignty,” he said.
“Philippine sovereignty has nothing to do with the employment contract between the captain or the crew and the owner of the tanker, notwithstanding the former being Filipinos.”
There is a process in invoking our sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zones. We are currently in that process and it is moving forward and well. Such a process does not comprise a Filipino seaman engaging in a word war with an agent of China. We will not be distracted by incidents such as this, hyped by personalities who detest the independent foreign policy of the President, and who want to change our course and resort to erroneous measures, to the detriment of the Filipino people,” he added.
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