THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) will block Filipino protesters from sailing to the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying that what a nationalist youth group did on Independence Day, June 12, although patriotic was a high-risk move, a military official said on Wednesday.
“What if kung nagkaroon ng medyo violent reaction or medyo worse scenario na napahamak sila so at the end kami pa rin ang mananagot sa kanila [What if there was a violent reaction or worst-case scenario something bad happened to them? They are our responsibility in the end],” said Capt. Gina Daet, Nolcom spokesman.
She was referring to members of the The Kalayaan Atin Ito (Freedom This is Ours) group whose members were blocked and sprayed with water by Chinese Coast Guard ships as they sailed to a shoal in disputed waters on Sunday.
Nolcom officials, according to Daet, were able to contact the team leader of the group, Vera Joy Ban-eg, and told her that while the military is not condemning them, it will not tolerate what they did for various security reasons.
Prior to the incident, she disclosed that the military had received information that a group plans to go to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
“We guarded possible entry points but they managed to elude us,” Daet said.
She added that the group managed to breach military security by initially posing as fishermen.
China has defended its bullying of the protesters even as it maintained that it has sovereign rights over Panatag, which Beijing calls Huangyan Island.
In a news briefing in Beijing late Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Lu Kang He said Filipinos should not to take any provocative action in Beijing’s supposed territories in the South China Sea.
To prevent the repetition of the incident, Daet said the Nolcom has doubled and tightened its security in the areas leading to contested waterways.
“We already adopted some measures to prevent another situation, another similar scenario,” she added.