By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. on Tuesday called as “propaganda” China’s claims that its Coast Guard has driven a Filipino naval vessel away from the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“Although pinapa-verify pa rin namin, wala namang ganun na nangyari so sa tingin ko propaganda lang ng China yun, galing sa Beijing yun, di ba? (Although we are still verifying the incident, it seems nothing of the sort took place. So, it seems to be propaganda coming from China),” he said in an interview with reporters.
Earlier, the China Coast Guard announced that it had driven away a “Philippine Navy (PN) gunboat” after they spotted it intruding into the waters adjacent to Huangyan Island (Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal).
Scarborough Shoal is known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal.
Brawner said the PN has no presence in the Scarborough Shoal, adding that the PN’s presence is located south of this feature.
“Nandun tayo sa south, sa baba, maski nga nung pinutol natin yung obstacle walang Navy dun eh, Coast Guard lang (Our naval presence is down south, even in the location where we cut the obstacle (floating barrier). Only the Coast Guard is there),” he added.
Brawner also said China is doing this bit of propaganda to show that they are doing something.
He said if there was indeed a PN ship in the area, they would never allow it to be driven away.
PN ship challenged but continued mission
Brawner, in a separate interview, said subsequent verification indicated that a PN ship which he did not identify was in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.
He added that the ship, which was doing maritime patrol at around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, was challenged by the China Coast Guard but it continued with its mission.
“Binerify namin meron tayong Navy ship dun sa vicinity ng Bajo De Masinloc pero ang mission nya is maritime patrol, so umaandar sya, ngayon nandun yung Coast Guard ng China, tsinallenge, oo, ngayon itong Navy naman ship tuloy-tuloy lang kasi hindi naman tinaboy(We verified and we found out that we have a Navy ship at the vicinity of Bajo De Masinloc, its mission was maritime patrol, so it was streaming and there was the China Coast Guard and it was challenged, but it just proceeded on its mission),” the AFP chief said.
Brawner also maintained that the PN ship was not driven away and still maintained his stand that China’s earlier claim was propaganda.
He also said that at the time of the challenge, the PN ship and the Chinese Coast Guard vessel were far away from each other. (PNA)