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PH to probe Chinese Coast Guard’s barring of Filipino news crew at Panatag Shoal

The government will investigate reports that Chinese coast guards barred a Filipino television news crew from conducting interviews in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo also urged the news crew to file a formal complaint so the Philippine government can take appropriate action.

Footage of the incident was aired on TV network GMA-7 a few days before the two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the country. The footage was recorded on Nov. 8.

According to Panelo, the government should find out first what exactly happened in Panatag Shoal and it should determine China’s policy in terms of conducting interviews the area.

“First, we have to validate whether or not… because according to that Coast Guard, it was prohibited. I said, ‘Is it a policy of China to prohibit media men from going there or not?’ We don’t know that yet,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

He said if it is true that China is prohibiting interviews by Filipino media, the Philippine government has set in place measures to discuss such concerns through negotiation.

“I heard the Coast Guard saying it’s prohibited for you to interview but you’re welcome for fishing activity and interviewing is not a fishing activity,” Panelo said.

“That’s precisely why we have this so-called mechanism for negotiation,” he added.

Panelo also urged GMA-7 to file a letter of complaint explaining the incident in writing.

“I told them ‘You have to give us a letter complaint expressing your concern so that we can act appropriately’,” Panelo said.

“We will refer your complaint to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and DFA will write the government of China whether or not there is such a policy,” he added.

Meanwhile, Panelo assured that the government will not allow fishermen, the media and other Filipinos to be harassed by China.

“Of course we won’t allow that our fellow Filipinos are being harassed. If it’s true that they have that policy, it’s up to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. That’s his turf,” Panelo said.

“Anything that is violative of our rights as a nation, anything that violates the rights of our citizens, we’ll always find it objectionable,” he added.

While it is not yet clear whether China committed a violation or not, Panelo said he already informed Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua of the incident.

“I asked the ambassador of China (Zhao), he said, ‘We have to make formal communication,’ also after we receive the formal complaint, but we haven’t received any yet,’” Panelo said.

“That was precisely my advice to GMA-7 correspondents. Write us so that we have basis,” he added.

In July 2016, the Hague invalidated China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and ruled in favor of the Philippines’ rights over the area. However, China refused to recognize it.

President Rodrigo Duterte has since opted for a friendly approach on the issue by engaging China in bilateral talks.#