MANILA - The water cannon incident at Scarborough Shoal won’t merit any military response since the goal of the Philippines is to resolve the sea dispute in a peaceful manner, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.
In a press conference, AFP Spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said: “We have to always think about not escalating the already volatile situation in the area. The use of water cannon towards Filipino citizens is a concern that merits further discussions…That’s why it‘s very important that there is a Code of Conduct that must be agreed upon by all claimants.”
He said armed confrontation should, at all times, be avoided.
He said sending the Philippine Navy there at this time may even give a wrong impression.
He said security forces are doing their job to protect the fishermen. “We will do so [protect our people], but the act must be carefully thought of because the situation in the area really is volatile.”
Zagala said the military will do its mandate “when the time comes”, but any plans at this point will be speculative.
The AFP is encouraging the fishermen to continue with their normal lives amid the January 27 incident, he said.
“We cannot let an aggressor stop our way of life, especially our livelihood. We encourage them to continue with their acts that they have been doing for so many decades,” Zagala said.
Bajo de Masinloc has recently been transferred to the Western Command’s (WesCom) area of responsibility. It used to be with the North Luzon Command (NolCom).
Zagala explained the transfer has nothing to do with NolCom's performance.
“This is so to enhance our external defense capabilities, which is now being concentrated at the western command…Our external defense efforts will just be under one commander and that is the western command commander,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has already summoned the charge d’affaires of China to protest the firing of water cannons at Filipino fishermen.
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez said two of 14 Filipino fishing boats were 30 to 40 yards away from the shoal when the China Coast Guard vessel with Bow Number 3063 "continuously blew its horn and thereafter doused the fishing vessels with water cannons for several minutes."
The Filipinos were not hurt, Hernandez said.