Disappointing antics of Phl TV crew in the SCS

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - April 12, 2021 - 12:00am

Last April 8, a TV crew from ABS-CBN, or at least from one of the network's many undying incarnations, reported of having been chased away from Ayungin Shoal in the Spratlys in the South China Sea, first by a China Coast Guard ship, then subsequently by at least two high-speed, high-powered missile patrol boats of the China People's Liberation Army Navy.

What the TV crew intended to do in Ayungin was not specified in the report. Maybe fright sometimes does have a subconscious way of deleting the impetus of some unpleasant memories. Anyway, other than the scare and the badly messed-up national pride of the Filipino TV crew, they are now back home safe on dry land, in uncontested Philippine territory. Hopefully the experience makes them wiser. For I cannot see why they went there.

Ayungin is 194 kilometers from Palawan. Sure it is part of and administered by the municipality of Kalayaan and therefore ours. There is even a Philippine military detachment in the area. There are, however, other claimants, with China being the most aggressive among them. Under present circumstances, with tensions running high among claimants, Ayungin is definitely not the place to be. I would not go there just to prove it is ours.

But Ayungin was precisely where the seemingly intrepid Filipino TV crew said they were headed, despite knowing that while the territory may be that of the Philippines, China has been very jealous of its unfounded expansionist claims and has been getting at everyone who tries to get in the way. It was a caper of epic foolishness, knowing there was nothing to prove in the end if China always does what it has been doing. April 8 was no different.

The only thing that could have made the ABS-CBN stunt remarkably different was if the TV crew, having embarked on such a foolish errand, went on to preserve the honor of fools and completed the errand (to borrow the words of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.). But no, the TV crew never set foot on Ayungin but skedaddled at the first sight of Chinese might. Instead of being owners, they looked like interlopers.

Good if all that the TV crew succeeded in doing was make a fool of themselves. But no, the rest of us had to suffer the ignominy of becoming the laughing stock of the world. Why, even America, much as it hates China, must be secretly snickering at such foolishness. America never goes through the South China Sea in stealth. It makes public its intentions days ahead, allowing China time to calibrate its response without losing face.

And yet here comes ABS-CBN, gung-ho as always, thinking naively that just because it owns the house it can just kick in the door, point a thumb outside, and expect the fire-breathing dragon that has come to occupy his domicile to meekly step outside. If the TV crew did not mean to make a last stand on Ayungin but had every intention of fleeing, it should just have stayed home. Even President Duterte, ever the realist, threw away his jet ski.

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