Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 12) — The Chinese plane that refuelled in Davao City was here to probe the Philippines, a military historian warned on Tuesday.
Security expert Jose Custodio told CNN Philippines’ The Source that it was a way for the eastern giant to “see how our reactions would be.”
“They could have refuelled in those artificial islands they constructed in the seas they stole from us… But they chose to do it in Davao,” he said. “Basically, they’re probing us.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Sunday that a Chinese aircraft made a technical stop in Davao on June 8. He maintained that the plane, bound for Cairns, Australia, followed “established procedures.”
However, Armed Forces Public (AFP) Affairs Office Chief Col. Edgar Arevalo said he did not have sufficient information about the aircraft except that it had stopped for refuelling.
Nonetheless, he said that it was a “perfectly legal reason to land… with appropriate permissions, of course, from appropriate government agencies.”
Custodio believes that China did not obtain the necessary permissions. He pointed out that the plane bore Chinese military insignia.
“So that has to pass through an even higher level — [the Department of Defense], AFP,” he said.
Custodio’s concern comes amid criticism of the Philippine government’s response to fishermen’s catch being taken by the Chinese Coast Guard in disputed waters.
Both governments stopped short of calling the incident harassment, although Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua has since promised that the men involved would be disciplined.