Palace: Let Greece handle Chinese ship harassment of Filipino-crewed tanker near Scarborough

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace: Let Greece handle Chinese ship harassment of Filipino-crewed tanker near Scarborough
"In this case, however, there was no threat to the lives of our countrymen despite the ship captain’s engaging in retorts about an issue sensitive to our foreign relations concerning our seas," Panelo said.
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MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang justified its distancing from the harassment of a Greece-owned vessel by a Chinese Coast Guard ship in Panatag Shoal, saying Manila would be insulting Athens' capability to assert its right if it intervenes.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said while the vessel involved is manned by a Filipino crew, it is "of Greek ownership carrying a Liberian flag of convenience."

"We cannot deprive the country being represented by the oil tanker of its right and duty to protect its own ship. To do otherwise, will be effectively divesting such country of its right and competence to take the cudgels for its ship. Such a demeanor will be a disrespect to it and even insulting to the capability of that country to assert its right," Panelo said in a statement.

"Each country has the right to be protective and be concerned of the welfare of its citizens. In this case, however, there was no threat to the lives of our countrymen despite the ship captain’s engaging in retorts about an issue sensitive to our foreign relations concerning our seas. In this particular instance, invoking our state's dominion is unnecessary," he added.

Panelo said invoking Philippine sovereignty to protest the incident would put at risk the employment of more than 400,000 Filipino seafarers and mariners.

He claimed such action would send "a message to shipping companies of our country's inclination to meddle with or interfere into their own maritime affairs for the sole reason that a Filipino is under their employ."

He reiterated that Philippine sovereignty has nothing to do with the employment contract between the captain or the crew and the owner of the tanker even if the crew members are Filipinos.

RELATED: Chinese ship harassment of Filipino-crewed tanker not our concern — Palace

Batongbacal: Like Philippines is acknowledging China's jurisdiction

Lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, earlier Monday slammed Panelo's remarks that the harassment of a Greek-owned vessel in the West Philippine Sea is not the country's concern.

"Even if it is Greek vessel, it should be our concern, because (the Philippines) relies on foreign-flagged vessels for international trade," Batongbacal tweeted Monday morning.

He also said the government's silence on Beijing's assertion of jurisdiction against the Greek tanker with Filipino crew members is a "sign of acquiescence to such jurisdiction" before a third party and before the whole world.

"This is like saying (the Philippines) is not concerned that (China) exercises jurisdiction over Scarborough against any other State," Batongbacal said.

"A Liberian ship navigating the waters within the Philippines EEZ being blocked by Chinese authorities is not our country’s concern?" Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, said on his Twitter account on Monday.

"The Malacañang official who posited the idea should be our concern."

RELATED: Not our concern? Philippines relies on foreign ships for trade, maritime expert tells Panelo

Panelo said, "there is a process in invoking our sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zones."

"We are currently in that process and it is moving forward and well. Such a process does not comprise a Filipino seaman engaging in a word war with an agent of China," the presidential spokesman also said.

"We will not be distracted by incidents such as this, hyped by personalities who detest the independent foreign policy of the President, and who want to change our course and resort to erroneous measures, to the detriment of the Filipino people," he added.

'Unproductive and disruptive knee-jerk reactions'

Panelo also chided Batongbacal for criticizing the Duterte administration's reaction to the incident, accusing him of "ignoring the dynamics of the issues on the ground to be relevant in expressing his square theories he learned from his books."

He said the Philippines' actions cannot and should not be motivated by what he described as "the play of politics aggravated by some media outfits' penchant to churn out interesting articles for their readers."

"Falling into such lure will only result in unproductive and disruptive knee-jerk reactions, if we are to react to every incident perceived to be an affront, no matter how disconnected the same is to the issue of sovereignty," Panelo, who on Sunday scored a satirical Twitter account for allegedly spreading fake news about the president, said.

He said Twitter user Professional Heckler had posted "a spliced video purportedly showing that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte did not receive a football jersey during the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and FIFA." 

The video actually does show Duterte receiving his football jersey, although the president had to wait for a few seconds before it was handed to him.




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