WPS incidents now open to media

Developments in the West Philippine Sea can now be freely fed to media after the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea ordered to make information, including incidents of harassment by Chinese maritime authorities, available to the public.

The order was issued after the alleged radio challenge made by the China Coast Guard to a Philippine Coast Guard plane carrying members of the media while flying over Pag-asa Island (Thitu), Ayungin Shoal and Sabina Shoal in the country’s exclusive economic zone last 8 March. They were then ordered to leave immediately, claiming they are on Chinese territory.

In a radio interview on Thursday, Commodore Jay Tristan Tarriela, PCG spokesperson on the WPS said that this happened as the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea believes the move is necessary to raise awareness among Filipinos and counter misinformation that China is not committing any violation in that part of the South China Sea.

“They (NTF-WPS) are allowed to publish all incidents happening there to the media and to make all our reports publicly available,” Tarriela said, contrary to the previous standard operating procedure that all information and occurrences will be disclosed to the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“This is our newest approach, not just to publicize the incidents for the world to know but of course to create awareness among Filipinos on what is happening in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Tarriela said there were no harassment incidents accounted for besides the laser-flashing by the Chinese coast guard of their Filipino counterparts several weeks ago.

He paid tribute to the media for helping the PCG and the national government in informing “the world what is happening in the West Philippine Sea, how the Chinese government is bullying us, how they’re carrying out aggressive and hostile actions to government vessels, and fishermen.”

“From there, we can generate international support from like-minded states like the United States, Japan, Australia, and even the European Union,” Tarriela said.

Different from Abu

Tarriela’s disclosure, however differs from that of PCG commandant, Admiral Artemio Abu, who said in a forum on Saturday that it will follow proper channels in issuing any information on its operations in the contested waters.

“When we talk too much, especially the commandant that is usually on the ground, our operations will be known to our counterparts as they can read our statements given to the media. I will no longer disclose directly to the public China’s acts of “aggression” in the WPS because it is already beyond my mandate to do so, which might weaken the country’s disposition concerning the disputed territorial waters,” Abu said in a forum in Quezon City.

“As much as I wanted to, I want to provide information that will help us. But with regards to WPS, the commandant of the Coast Guard is not the sole authority to discuss it. We can provide press releases duly vetted by the Task Force on the WPS and the National Security Adviser,” he maintained.

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