PH invoking state dominion vs Chinese harassment in Filipino crew foreign oil tanker unnecessary - Palace
The Philippines does not need to invoke its dominion over the recent harassment by a Chinese naval warship in an all-Filipino crew foreign-flagged oil tanker near Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea, Malacanang said on Monday.
This was contrary to the statement of University of the Philippines professor and a maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal that the country should not be silent on China's assertion of "jurisdiction" against the Greek vessel manned by Filipino crew members.
Batungbacal has said Philippine silence was effectively a sign of acquiescence to such jurisdiction before such third party.
"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," Panelo said in a statement.
He said the actions of the Philippines "cannot and should not be motivated by 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. Philippine sovereignty has nothing to do with the employment contract between the captain or the crew and the owner of the tanker, notwithstanding the former being Filipinos," said Panelo, also chief presidential legal counsel.
He added that the Duterte administration could not deprive the country being represented by the oil tanker of its rights 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," he said.
Echoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Panelo said if the Philippines were to invoke sovereignty to protest the incident, which did not result to any physical harm of Filipino crew members, it would only put at risk the employment of over 400,000 deployed Filipino seafarers and mariners, by sending a message to shipping companies of the 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 said Batongbacal, who attempted to be relevant in expressing his "square theories he learned from his books," would be "better off if he sticks his perorations in his classroom."
Panelo also said the Philippines is in the process of invoking its sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone.
"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. 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 said.
Despite a 2016 United Nations Arbitral Ruling favoring the Philippines, China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Scarborough is within the Philippine EEZ. Celerina Monte/DMS