Naval Public Affairs Office director Capt. Jonathan Zata made this clear in reaction to Magdalo party-list group Rep. Gary Alejano’s formally seeking permission from the PCG to go to Panatag Shoal off Zambales.
Michael Varcas
Otso Diretso needs AFP permission to sail to Scarborough
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Even if allowed by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Otso Diretso opposition senatorial candidates cannot just sail to Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, the Philippine Navy said yesterday.

Naval Public Affairs Office director Capt. Jonathan Zata made this clear in reaction to Magdalo party-list group Rep. Gary Alejano’s formally seeking permission from the PCG to go to Panatag Shoal off Zambales.

Zata said any trip to Panatag – a potential flashpoint – should be cleared with the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The request should be forwarded to the unified command. Sa NOLCOM. It has operational control of navy ships deployed there,” he explained.

Zata said NOLCOM’s No.1 concern is safety and second is the current maritime issue.

“So it’s a good idea definitely (to ask permission) if they would want to go there, if they want to sincerely and genuinely go there,” he pointed.

He expressed doubt a trip to Panatag would be allowed “if it’s going to be used for something other than fishing,” like for publicity. “Not unless you have an official business in going to Scarborough - either you’re fisherman or security force,” he said.

Zata stressed that Panatag Shoal is not even a tourist destination that anyone can visit. “Your may fish in the shoal itself or within the periphery but if you’re going to go there other than fishing, it’s not a tourist attraction. You can see nothing there but rocks,” he added.

Zata stressed the military can always deny request for travel to Panatag.

“It’s not a tourist attraction. It’s not a place where anyone could just take a dip, it’s a fishing ground,” he said. “Then again, as far as the military is concerned, we have that proper procedure and that the unified command has that right agency to act on anyone’s request… either to recommend, or escort, or assist, something like that,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, Alejano held a press briefing to announce his filing s request with the PCG to sail to Panatag. Alejano is running for senator under the opposition Otso Diretso slate.

Alejano’s letter, dated April 13, was addressed to PCG commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino.

“In line with your recent pronouncement that anyone may be given access to sail to Scarborough Shoal so long as it is properly coordinated with your office, the undersigned would like to humbly request for clearance to visit Scarborough Shoal,” Alejano’s letter read. – With Evelyn Macairan and Helen Flores

OTSO DIRETSO PANATAG SHOAL
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