MANILA – The Malacañang has downplayed the alleged harassment of a Liberian-flagged commercial vessel near Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
The latest maritime incident involving a Chinese “naval ship” harassing an all-Filipino crew of a foreign-flagged, foreign-owned oil tanker is “not a concern” for the Philippines, according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“It’s not our concern, because it’s not a Philippine vessel,” Panelo said. “For as long as they do not touch the Philippine ship or vessel, it would be the concern of that country that carries the flag of that particular vessel.”
Panelo, however, agreed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s stand on the incident that China must follow international maritime laws “if it wants to earn the respect of the international community.”
“I agree. And I think, China should agree because China itself says that we should respect international law,” Panelo said.
During the recent ASEAN summit, President Rodrigo Duterte said that freedom of navigation and overflight should be observed in the South China Sea.
Duterte has called on all South China Sea claimants to exercise self-restraint and refrain from undertaking activities that heighten uncertainty and instability on the disputed waters.
The President also pushed for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes, as he called for the immediate conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that is consistent with international laws./PN