Navy did not abandon Panatag to China, ex-chief says
The Philippine Navy did not cede Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to China during the 2012 standoff. Its warship was ordered to exit two days after the standoff began in April to resume a mission original in the waters of northern Luzon. And it was not until the arrival of the Philippine Coast Guard patrols to continue to deal with the proliferation of Chinese gunboats and poachers.
This was clarified by the Naval Flag Officer at the time, Commander Adm. Alexander Pama. “We did not retreat, we did not retreat; we were, in military language, relieved on the spot, ”Pama told Sapol-dwIZ on Saturday. “The Navy has never given up on a challenge.”
“Relief in place” is “an operation in which, by order of a higher authority, all or part of a unit is replaced in a zone by the incoming unit. Responsibilities of the replaced elements for the mission and assigned area of operations are transferred to the incoming unit. The incoming unit continues the operation according to the order. “(Thefreedictionary.com)
This clarification follows repeated claims by the Duterte administration that the withdrawal of naval ships by its predecessor allowed China to occupy Panatag. Criticized for his appeasement policy towards China, Rody Duterte alleged that then Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario and Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio ordered a withdrawal. Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the High Tribunal is part of the chain of command of the armed forces.
“It wasn’t the Navy that pulled out in June 2012,” Pama said, reacting to Duterte’s late television show the other Monday with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. “The president was misinformed about the schedule. If we cannot get the correct data, our credibility is damaged. “
To begin with, only one Navy vessel, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, was involved. It was en route in an emergency to northeast Luzon, reports said that a North Korean missile fired at Guam could hit the mainland of the Philippines or boats at Benham Rise. According to the report that the missile splashed into the sea on April 8, BRP del Pilar was then diverted to Panatag, 123 miles off Zambales, Pama said. Navy reconnaissance planes had spotted eight to ten illegal Chinese fishing trawlers there.
BRP del Pilar entered the horseshoe-shaped bench in the wee hours of April 10, Pama said. At dawn, an inspection team on an inflatable boat boarded one of the Chinese trawlers. Hundreds of living and dead sharks, giant sea turtles, giant clams and fan corals have been discovered. The species has been classified internationally as endangered, therefore prohibited for capture or harvest. “We have pictures,” Pama recalls. “It took four to six men to transport even half of each decades-old clam.”
In the middle of the morning, three gunboats from China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) and one from Fisheries Law Enforcement Control (FLEC) burst onto the scene. Pama identified two: Zhongguo Haijian 75 and Zhongguo Haijian 84. “Agad nakipag-patintero sila sa boarding party,” he said, suspecting an organization. The Chinese gunboats not only protected illegal fishermen, but they also lingered nearby. Panatag, a former naval firing range, is 750 miles from China, well outside its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
The 1998 Fisheries Code (RA 8550, section 124) replaces the Navy, Coast Guard and PNP-Maritime Command as executors. In the past, they have brought poachers to San Fernando, La Union, to be prosecuted and detained there.
But Beijing turned the situation on Manila, spreading propaganda that the latter was intimidating Chinese fishermen by sending a warship. Thus, Malacañang’s decision to withdraw BRP del Pilar. The order came after a meeting in Malacañang attended by Enrile and other congressional leaders, a military source said. It was relayed to the Northern Luzon Armed Forces Command and the Northern Naval Forces which had operational jurisdiction over Panatag.
On April 12, Coast Guard patrols BRP Pampanga and BRP Edsa arrived from various ports. A profession from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources joined Atty, then director of BFAR. Asis Perez said last month also on Sapol-dwIZ. BRP del Pilar moored in Subic Bay, Zambales.
Over the following weeks, 15 additional CMS and FLEC gunboats escorted nearly 200 other Chinese poaching vessels to the traditional Filipino fishing ground. Every 80 meters long, the Chinese gunboats eclipsed the Filipino 45-meter patrol boats.
In the third week of June, the approach of Super Typhoon Butchoy prompted talks to end the standoff at sea. The United States has negotiated a simultaneous withdrawal from Panatag, del Rosario has repeatedly reported. The Philippine craft left as agreed, but China deceptively denied. The Chinese gunboats even chained the mouth of the bench to prevent the Filipinos from returning. Beijing could only have planned it from the start, Pama concluded.
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