Palawan officials to gov't: Clarify China rule on WPS

Palawan officials to gov’t: Clarify China rule on WPS


Inquirer files

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN, Philippines — With China’s trespassing in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) already a local concern besides being a national issue, the city council here has invited national government officials to explain China’s new regulation directing its coast guard to detain “foreigners” crossing areas of Philippine waters it has occupied.

During the council’s regular session on Monday, Councilor Elgin Damasco noted in a privilege speech the concern of residents about how China’s regulation may affect fishermen venturing into the West Philippine Sea.


He said, “Our fishermen have expressed fears” over China’s threat to detain what it regards as foreigners crossing their occupied area for as long as 60 days.


READ: China Coast Guard: We can detain trespassers

Damasco requested officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the military’s Western Command (Wescom) to attend the council’s next regular session, so they could clarify to the council China’s regulation.

“Are we affected by this, especially our fishermen? So I want to hear their opinion and reaction about this regulation. I believe that this is another form of intimidation to discourage Filipinos from sailing in the West Philippine Sea,” said Damasco, chair of the council’s committee on agriculture and fisheries.

READ: Ignore ‘scare tactics’ by Chinese, fishers urged

Edca sites

Councilor Victor Oliveros, for his part, said, “I think they (the Chinese) are serious about it and I think they are going to do what they said. And if ever, what’s going to happen? Are we also going to impose or detain Chinese intruders?”

Councilor Jimmy Carbonell noted that Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital of Palawan, hosts the Antonio Bautista Air Base, which is among the nine locations in the country that had been selected for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).


Manila’s 2014 agreement with Washington allows the positioning of US troops in these so-called Edca sites, including the said air base and the island municipality of Balabac, also in Palawan.

“When worse comes to worst, God forbid, help will be available,” Carbonell said. “Because I can see only two ways that this can be resolved. One is through diplomatic process, and the other one, which is the worst, is war.”

Chinese warships

Meanwhile, four Chinese warships have been spotted in the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal following a civilian supply mission there last week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Tuesday.

Before the four People’s Liberation Army Navy ships seen from May 14 until just this Monday, there were two Chinese warships that tried to block the civilian supply mission on May 15, according to the “Atin Ito” (This Is Ours) Coalition, which led that convoy.

However, there were many more Chinese vessels scattered in different areas of the West Philippine Sea. The AFP said a total of 128 ships were in those waters, compared with 98 vessels a week before.

Given China’s continued presence in the West Philippine Sea and the damage it is likely to inflict on its marine environment, fisherfolk group Pamalakaya urged the government to sue Beijing for reparations.

House hearing

At the House of Representatives, top officials of the previous administration of Rodrigo Duterte denied that it had entered into a gentleman’s agreement with China.

Instead, they claimed that there were earlier agreements by their predecessors to maintain the “status quo” at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and allow the provision of food and water to troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded vessel which serves as the Philippines’ military outpost there.

On Tuesday’s continuation of the joint inquiry by the House committees on national defense and on the West Philippine Sea, former Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said, “The status quo at Ayungin Shoal… was in a 2013 commitment of former defense chief [Voltaire] Gazmin to Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing that he would only deliver food and water to the Marines stationed at [BRP Sierra Madre].”

Duterte, “being a lawyer, knew fully well that it was foolhardy to enter into an agreement, especially a gentleman’s agreement at that, with the President of the People’s Republic of China on matters involving sovereign rights,” Medialdea said further.

For his part, Bases Conversion and Development Authority Chair Delfin Lorenzana, who was Duterte’s defense secretary, cited a conversation with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian, who claimed that the Philippines had consented in 1999 to take the BRP Sierra Madre out of Ayungin.

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Former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who headed the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, also said, “There was no secret agreement as far as I know and as far as I remember.” He added that Duterte only “maintained” earlier commitments made by his predecessors. —with reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, Nestor Corrales and Jacob Lazaro

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TAGS: DFA, Palawan, PCG, Wescom, West Philippine Sea

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