Stepping in the incident involving a Chinese vessel allegedly harassing a Greek oil tanker “Green Aura” with an all-Filipino crew near the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) may cost thousands of Filipino mariners their livelihood, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Monday.
Locsin defended the statement made by Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that the incident is not a Philippine concern because the vessel allegedly harassed is not a Philippine vessel.
This after maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal described Panelo’s remark as “wrong on several levels”, saying the spokesperson should stop speaking on matters of foreign policy.
“It is a Greek vessel of Greek ownership flying a Liberian flag of convenience which just happens to have a skipper of Philippine nationality,” Locsin said in a message to media forwarded by Panelo.
Locsin said meddling will drag Filipino mariners in the incident, emphasizing that none of the Filipino crew members in the Greek oil tanker were even harmed in the first place.
“We stick our noses in and 400,000 Filipino mariners get embroiled in a maritime issue about which our only interest is the safety of the parts of the crew who just happen to be Filipino and were not harmed,” he added.
He further said 400,000 Filipino mariners could lose their livelihood if the Philippine government would step in an issue better addressed by the Greek government.
“Want the employment 400,000 Pinoy mariners to hang in the balance of the games an idiot native media likes to play? Now that’s harming their livelihoods,” Locsin said.
Panelo said he will be releasing a separate statement on the issue.
On his official Twitter account, Batongbacal said Panelo’s silence on China’s assertion of jurisdiction against a Greek vessel is like saying the Philippines is not concerned that China does the same for any other state.
“It’s like a person not caring that his house is being managed by someone else who claims to be the owner and makes other people recognize he is the real owner,” Batongbacal said.
The maritime law expert explained that even if the incident involved a Greek vessel, it should still be a concern because the Philippines relies on foreign-flagged vessels for international trade.
Reports said the Green Aura was going to China from Thailand through the West Philippine Sea on Sept. 30 when it received warning from a Chinese warship against passing the Scarborough Shoal.
Filipino captain Manolo Ebora ignored this order and maintained the Green Aura has the right to innocent passage in the disputed shoal. PNA.GOV.PH