US eyewitness says Scarborough flag planting a 'success'

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked a group of Filipino youth from planting the Philippine and United Nations (UN) flag at the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal last Sunday but the expedition was a "success," according to an eyewitness.

In a podcast posted by The Diplomat, American political analyst Anders Corr recounted the events over the weekend as he accompanied Kalayaan Atin Ito (KAI) activists to the disputed shoal.

The Filipino youth group sought to plant a Philippine flag on Panatag Shoal in commemoration of the country's 118th Independence Day.

READ: China ships stop Panatag flag planting

"There were some pretty big ships with wide guns on them and there was a medium large boat, a Chinese Coast Guard boat, plus two speed boats and they blocked our path to Scarborough Shoal. They looked like they were going to ram us by coming straight at us at a fairly decent amount of speed and then veering off at the last minute," Corr said.

Corr said that Filipino volunteers and activists immediately put on their life vests when the Chinese ships got too close to them.

The Chinese yelled at the Filipinos and waved their hands, telling them to leave. The group of Filipinos, however, refused to leave the shoal in the disputed South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

"It's within Philippines 200-mile EEZ or exclusive economic zone so we have a right to explore there," the eyewitness said.

The group then decided to swim to the shoal to plant the flags of the Philippines and the UN to highlight the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

KAI leader Joy Ban-Eg was the first one who jumped out of the boat.

"What ended up happening was the first woman to go in who leaves the group got jumped on by both speed boats that really dangerously close to her... the propellers were within three feet in front of her she had grabbed on the boat, sometimes pushed the boat away from her as the rear of the boat was swung around by the Chinese Coast Guard in a very threatening way," Corr said.

According to Corr, the Chinese attempted to seize the bag containing the flags from Ban-Eg. As a result, the flags were punctured.

While the Chinese were occupied on blocking Ban-Eg from getting to the shoal, the other Filipinos also jumped to the sea and found a different route to plant the Philippine flag on the shoal.

"Swimmers raised a small Philippine flag and waved it around to show that they still have sovereignty over there," Corr said.

The group then proceeded to move its fishing boat to get Ban-eg out of the water. Corr said the encounter between the KAI leader and the Chinese lasted for almost an hour.

"It was a success because we did get the flag on to the shoal with three swimmers made it on to the shoal," the eyewitness said.

The group then sang the Philippine National Anthem as they claimed victory in planting the Philippine flag on the disputed shoal.



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