MANILA Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday said he will ask Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to clarify reports on the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea since January this year.
Panelo confirmed that he will be meeting Zhao in a courtesy call in MalacaAan Palace at 2:30 p.m. on Monday to find out whether there was truth to reports that the vessels were circling Pag-asa Island.
I will ask the Ambassador if that's true. If it's true, 'what are they doing there?' Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
I will ask him first why first, if they acknowledge such fact as determined by us; number two, ask him why they're doing it, and number three, we will politely ask them not to do what they're doing, he added.
Panelo raised the possibility that the vessels present there may not be within the knowledge of the Chinese government.
Panelo also bared that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has filed a diplomatic protest against China over vessels deployed near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
I understand we have already issued a diplomatic protest per the Western Command. The DFA has already made a diplomatic protest over it that incident on the so-called vessels being stationed there, Panelo said.
The mere fact that they're there and just staying there for a week, bakit? Anong ginagawa niyo doon (Why? What are you doing there)? he added.
Panelo said anything that concerns the security of the Philippines will always be a concern.
Panelo said that a text message from Vice Admiral Rene Medina of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Command tagged an ABS-CBN news report which claimed that vessels were circling the island as exaggerated.
The word 'circling' used by the reporter in the news article was never spoken by LTC (Elpidio) Factor in his briefing," Panelo said in reading Medina's message, which was forwarded to him by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
They're just stationary there. Wala namang ginagawa, naka standby lang doon (They're not doing anything, they're just on standby). They're there but they're not circling, Panelo said.
The Spokesperson also rejected the same report which claimed the presence of 617 vessels in Pag-asa Island noting a clarification from the WesCom that there were only 275 vessels there.
Ang (The) total 275 hindi (not) 617, Panelo said.
Meanwhile, Panelo said he will also ask the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to explain an advisory warning fishermen to avoid the Panatag Shoal for the meantime amid reports that they were experiencing harassment.
First, if it's true that there has been a diplomatic protest per the Western Command's information then we have already done our part. Let's see how they will respond to the diplomatic protest, Panelo said.
If it endangers their safety, then we should tell them not to in the meanwhile, he added.
In a chance interview before his meeting with Panelo, Zhao vowed to cooperate with the Philippine government to verify the Chinese vessels in Pag-as island.
Well, so far that I know there are fishermen from both sides, but whether the number is 600, whether they are surrounding the islands, that you have people there, it is really up to further investigation and verification, Zhao said. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency