'Be circumspect,' AFP tells media amid China 'takeover'
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military is reminding the media to “be circumspect” in news reporting after China’s supposed “takeover” of Quirino Atoll in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) made headlines this week.
In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) urged the media “to be circumspect in their reporting so as not to create unnecessary public alarm.”
“To say that China has effectively taken over Quirino Atoll is not accurate and not true. While Chinese vessels have been sighted on and off the area, Filipino fishing vessels are monitored conducting economic activities unhampered,” the AFP said.
The AFP also said it has not received any report from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Philippine Coast Guard, or any Filipino fishing company “that our fishermen are being harassed and/or being driven away” from Quirino Atoll.
Even Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario denied the reported takeover.
“We are monitoring the situation on the ground. According to reports, they are not there today so the theory about occupation may not be accurate because if they are occupying they should be there,” Del Rosario was quoted as saying by GMA News.
'Exercise self-restraint,' China told
This comes after the Philippine Star on Tuesday, March 2, published a report titled, “China takes Philippine atoll.”
The Star reported, “The Chinese have taken over another traditional Filipino fishing ground near Palawan where they have stationed up to five ships to keep local fishermen at bay, sources said.”
Other news outlets published stories based on, or in reaction to, this newspaper report.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), for its part, clarified that “there are no more sightings of Chinese vessels” in Quirino Atoll as of Wednesday.
The DFA said it “is monitoring reports on the situation on the ground and reiterates its call for China to exercise self-restraint from the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes in the South China Sea, and affect peace and stability in the region.”
China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea despite competing claims from neighboring countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
In a historic move, Manila filed a case against China before a United Nations-backed tribunal to resolve this maritime dispute.
The Philippines expects the tribunal to rule on this case early this year. – Rappler.com