Joint Beijing-Manila probe into Scarborough incident sought
- Written by Charlie V. Manalo
- The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) yesterday pressed a Beijing-Manila joint investigation of an alleged incident involving Chinese Coast Guards firing water cannon at Filipino fishermen near the disputed Scarborough Shoal on Jan. 27.
This even as a partylist lawmaker called on the United Nations (UN) to immediately decide on the territorial dispute on the contested area to defuse tensions.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista in forum with the Foreign Correspondents of the Philippines (Focap) said the incident was relayed by small fishermen to the Philippine authority and that China still maintained armed Coast Guard and other vessels at Panatag Shoal, some 220 kilometers off the Philippine main island of Luzon.
But the AFP chief said the Philippines should investigate first before lodging the complaint. But Pamalakaya said the AFP committed a grossly irresponsible and highly questionable act by declaring a sweeping statement without the benefit of investigation and ill-governed by a fatally flawed foreign policy of the Manila government.
Pamalakaya vice chairman Salvador France asserted that an independent probe to be administered or sanctioned by the Beijing government and the Philippine government must be carried out to determine the real score, saying it is highly dangerous to rely on the report of the AFP, which France said is bias and attached to US military command.
“For the sake of objectivity, we ask the governments of China and the Philippines to initiate an independent investigation on the incident that should be free from pro-US prejudices. And this is major political challenge to the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III who is known as the no.1 lapdog of Washington DC in Asia and the Pacific,” the Pamalakaya official said.
France said Pamalakaya does not trust the AFP and the Aquino administration in dealing with the Scarborough Shoal and the West Philippine Sea dispute, adding Aquino has repeatedly and brazenly played his role to the hilt as American spoiler on China issues including but not limited to South China Sea.
Likewise, France questioned the motive and the timing of reporting the incident, saying the firing of water cannon by Chinese coast guards at Filipino fishermen happened last month and that should have been reported on the day it took place.
“Why it took a month for the AFP to publicly announce the incident? What is the motive? Is it to justify the approval of another military agreement with Washington DC that would pave way for the increase of US military presence in the country? What is the real objective of this latest escapade of the AFP? The people deserve the truth and nothing but the truth,” France said.