MANILA – The Philippine Coast Guard is now allowed by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea to make public incidents in those waters where Chinese harassments frequently occur, an official of the agency said Saturday.
Commodore Jay Tristan Tarriela, PCG spokesperson on the WPS, told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo that the NTF-WPS believes the move is necessary to raise awareness among Filipinos and counter misinformation that China is not committing any violation in that part of the South China Sea.
“Ang masasabi kong bago lang talaga ngayon sa mga nakaraang linggo is that the Philippine Coast Guard is now permitted and authorized by the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea to publish itong mga insidente, and to make all our reports publicly available sa ating mga media,” Tarriela said.
The new policy was bared after the PCG led a maritime domain awareness flight with some journalists over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Thursday.
A similar trip was made in February.
While the PCG has been disclosing Chinese harassment incidents in the West Philippine Sea on rare occasions, it had usually been the NTF-WPS, the Department of National Defense, or the Department of Foreign Affairs that makes initial announcement on most instances.
“Ang paniniwala kasi ng ating National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, kailangan nating isapubliko ito para magkaroon ng awareness sa mga Pilipino kung ano ang nangyayari sa West Philippine Sea, and of course to dispel yung mga misinformation, fake news na sinasabing wala namang masamang ginagawa ang China sa West Philippine Sea,” said Tarriela.
“Ito ang pinakabagong approach natin ngayon, not just to publicize itong incidents for the world to know but of course to create awareness sa mga Pilipino na ito ang sitwasyon natin sa West Philippine Sea,” he added.
Tarriela said the sighting of several Chinese vessels in Philippine waters, the challenges Philippine authorities receive from their Chinese counterparts and the counter-challenges, which all happened during the recent trip, are nothing new.
He said they hovered over Pag-asa Island (Thitu), Ayungin Shoal and Sabina Shoal.
Fifteen Chinese maritime militia vessels, a China coast guard vessel, and a PLA navy vessel were spotted near Pag-asa Island during that mission. In their latest report made last weekend, Tarriela said there were 42 Chinese maritime militia vessels.
Over at Ayungin Shoal, a Chinese coast guard vessel remained in the area, while 17 Chinese maritime militia vessels remained at Sabina Shoal, down from 26 two weeks ago.
Tarriela said no major harassment incident after the laser-flashing by the Chinese coast guard in the West Philippine Sea several weeks ago has been recorded.
He thanked the media for helping the PCG and the national government in informing “the world what is happening in the West Philippine Sea, how the Chinese government is bullying us, how they’re carrying out aggressive and hostile actions sa ating mga government vessels, sa ating mga fishermen.”
“From there, we can generate international support from like-minded states like the United States, Japan, Australia and even the European Union,” said Tarriela.
China continues to disregard the 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated its historical claims over almost the entire South China Sea despite being a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.