Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson’s Partido Reporma released a video showing that Lacson and his team were given “warnings” by the Chinese Navy while they were en route to Pag-asa Island.
The video recording caught the radio message from the Chinese Navy saying that “You are approaching our military zone. Please stay away from the area and leave immediately. Your actions are unfriendly and dangerous. Your actions are dangerous.”
But there were no untoward incidents, according to Ashley Acedillo, Partido Reporma spokesperson Ashley Acedillo.
Acedillo said they were able to give a standard reply to the radio message and that there was already coordination between the pilot and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
A GMA News report said Lacson found the warning “unusual.” Lacson also said he received a “Welcome to China” message on his mobile phone as soon as his party landed in the said island.
Lacson maintained that diplomacy must still reign supreme when it comes to dealing with issues concerning the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Citing his observations following his visit to Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan, Palawan over the weekend, Lacson maintained that one of the best ways for the Philippines to defend its territorial integrity is to create a “balance of power” in the region.
By aligning with other nations that support freedom of navigation over the disputed waters of WPS, Lacson believes the country could refrain China from bullying its weaker neighbors, which are trying to exercise maritime rights in their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
“There has to be a common fishing ground, common possession, that is what is being discussed. But for one country to bully its neighbor and drive its people away from their own territory, like the Ayungin Shoal, to me that’s unacceptable,” he said.
The presidential aspirant was referring to the water cannon attack made by Chinese Coast Guard vessels against the unarmed local commercial ships trying to resupply Filipino soldiers manning the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal last November 16.
Lacson recognized that China is a force to reckon with in terms of its military might and economic influence. A direct confrontation, therefore, would only put our country on the losing end so we need to build a strong alliance with other nations that could rival its strength.
“We cannot confront China alone. So, we will seek the help of other powerful countries,” he noted.
Lacson also welcomed statements issued by Western allies like the United States, for example, against the recent Chinese aggression.
Lacson said that the US is even exploring the possibility of reinforcing its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Philippines to help protect its borders and avert similar intrusive attacks in the future.
He said the US wants to further enhance EDCA including funding requirements. “I think the United States is becoming a little more aggressive when it comes to the West Philippine Sea issue, which is a good indication,” he said.
EDCA is a bilateral pact designed to supplement the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines to strengthen the fabric of peace in the Pacific region. It was signed in Manila on April 28, 2014.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday that his country is standing with its longtime ally, the Philippines, amid the recent escalation of regional tensions in the WPS over the Ayungin Shoal incident.