Palace not sure if barring media from S. China Sea is official Beijing policy


MANILA – Malacañang will not yet take concrete steps or make any pronouncements after Chinese coastguard personnel barred a Filipino media team from covering a portion of the West Philippine Sea that is well within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

A Palace spokesman said Monday it will first have to validate if the ban on Philippine media is an official policy of Beijing.

Observers have been urging the Duterte government to lodge a protest against China after Chinese coast guard men recently blocked a team from news network GMA-7 planning to conduct interviews at the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).

But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said an investigation must first be made by the foreign affairs department before any steps can be taken by the government. He also urged the media team involved to file a complaint that will be coursed through the proper channels.

“Is it a policy of China to prohibit mediamen from going there or not? We don’t know that yet,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

“You have to give us a letter complaint expressing your concern so that we can act appropriately. We will refer you to DFA and the DFA will write the government of China whether or not there is such a policy.”

Panelo said there is a need to clarify whether the Chinese policy comes from the top. The recent barring of the GMA team, however, is not the first incident where a group of reporters, Filipino or foreigner, was confronted by Chinese troops in the hotly contested sea.

Asked whether the Chinese act was violative of the Philippines’ rights in its very own front yard, Panelo said, “We don’t know if it was just their Chinese coastguard making threats.”

Nonetheless, he said “anything that is violative of our rights as a nation, anything that violates the rights of our citizens, we will always find it objectionable.”

“If that is really their policy, [DFA Secretary Teodoro] Locsin will take care of that. That’s his turf.”

Panelo said he already relayed the concerns about the incident to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and the latter said any complaint should be formally made.