THE Philippine Coast Guard yesterday confirmed that a Chinese vessel drove away Filipino fishermen from our Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
This is where in 2012 there was a globally publicized standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels when the Philippine Navy tried to apprehend Chinese vessels fishing in Panatag. Our PN troopers had boarded the Chinese vessel and found the crew’s harvests of fish and corrals. But our PN contingent had to back off when larger and better armed Chinese vessels arrived and surrounded our Navy and the trespassing Chinese fishing boat.
The Philippine Coast Guard confirmation was announced by Malacañang’s Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. in a statement sent to media yesterday afternoon. “The PCG has verified and confirmed the reported incident involving fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc (another name for Panatag). However, the actual number of fishermen has not been verified,” the brief statement.
Coloma also said the PCG has written an incident report which has been submitted to the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The victims of Chinese aggression were fishermen from Pangasinan. They earlier told media that the Chinese Coast Guard fired a water cannon at them to drive them away from Panatag Shoal.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang had earlier announced that Philippine authorities were studying the possibility of providing PCG escorts for Filipino fishermen sailing to the West Philippine Sea to protect them from Chinese Coast Guard bullying. But Gen. Catapang’s words turned out to be nothing but hot air.
China has been creating large islands out of Philippine-owned islets. These have not only been witnessed by boat-borne Filipinos. Satellite images also show these Chinese reclamation and construction activities.
Noises to save face and feel brave
The Palace has been making brave statements more to convince itself that it is capable of doing something to defend the rights of Filipinos to fish in our own fishing grounds.
Coloma has been quoted by GMA TV News as saying in Tagalog, “Sinisikap ng pamahalaan na mapahusay ang kapasidad ng Philippine Navy at Philippine Coast Guard hinggil sa maritime domain awareness upang agarang matunton ang mga kahalintulad na insidente at mabigyang proteksyon ang mga mangingisdang Pilipino kung kinakailangan. [The government is trying to improve the capacity of the Philippine and Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard for maritime domain awareness so that similar incidents can be immediately resolved and Filipino fishermen can be given protection if necessary.”]
GMATV News said Coloma added “that the administration will continue to equip the PCG and the Navy with modern equipment to patrol and protect the country’s coastline.”
Other things the Palace spokesman said were so obviously also meant to make noises in the hope that our country’s helplessness against a bullying and powerful China could somehow become less embarrassing and minimize our sense of defeat.
We would have felt less helpless, China would probably act with less impunity against us, if our mutual defense treaties with the United States were more solid, like what Japan has with the US, and not hollow and veritably meaningless agreements (as far protecting us is concerned) because under these treaties the United States will only come to our aid when and if American security is actually threatened by an aggressor.
We must re-evaluate these treaties and re-set our relationship with China through more effective diplomatic efforts.
These can only happen when BS Aquino is no longer president of the Philippines.
We hope, though, that Aquino’s successor–who will surely be his and the Liberal Party’s choice because they have a powerful tool, the Comelec’s Smartmatic AES-cum PCOS machines that controls vote-counting in the precincts and transmission from precincts to the canvassing centers–will overturn the present foreign policy toward China.