MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Saturday admitted there were maritime incidents in the West Philippine Sea that were not publicized.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG's spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said it was only recently that they started making maritime incidents public, for the awareness among the Filipinos and the international community.
“As far as the incidents that happened in the past weeks, we were able to publicize, but for the previous incidents that happened, I am not authorized to disclose,” Tarriela said during a media forum in Quezon City.
“August, we were already saying that during the last mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PCG Coast Guard also assisted and escorted, ito yung time na tinanggal yung cover… So from there, that is my response, when did we start publicizing and… what are those instances that we did not publicize,” he added.
One of the maritime incidents not released to the public was the first laser-flashing incident in the West Philippine Sea involving BRP Habagat in June last year.
“Blue laser light ng Chinese Coast Guard at ito ay nagdulot sa kanila ng temporary blindness and at the same time skin itchiness,” he said, recounting the first laser incident.
“Kung ikukumpara mo sa result ng green laser light ngayon. Kasi sa green laser light, nagkaroon ng temporary blindness for 10 to 15 seconds. Noong nakaraang taon kasi, they also experienced skin itchiness,” he added.
Pressed further by the media as to why some incidents were not publicized, Tarriela said, “I am not privy to the reason.”
The National Task Force for West Philippine Sea, he said, vets information on maritime incidents before these get released to the public.
It is also up to the task force if “this information merits to be publicly released or not.”
The West Philippine Sea task force, he said, also decided to make the recent maritime incidents publicly available to see if Beijing would have a different approach, as they continue to maintain their presence in the country’s waters.
“It was decided that all of these incidents will be made publicly available, recognizing the fact that for us to expect changes to how China would react is to expose those bullying activities and aggressive behavior of China,” he said.
The Philippines had accused a Chinese Coast Guard vessel of flashing military-grade laser on BRP Malapascua last Feb. 6 in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).
It also complained against the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea.
In a separate interview on ANC on Thursday, Tarriela said they have yet to come up with protocols on responding to similar incidents or harassments in the future. He noted that it is important for authorities to know and understand laser technology.