MANILA (UPDATE) - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday reminded members of the media to "exercise prudence" in doing its coverage inside the West Philippine Sea, as they are supposedly "concerned" for everyone's well-being.
The military's statement came a day after 2 Chinese missile crafts chased down a Filipino civilian vessel where an ABS-CBN News team was aboard.
The said vessel was traveling across various reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed South China Sea, close to the mainland of Palawan to see where Filipino fisherfolk have moved their livelihood.
GPS coordinates indicate that the Filipino vessel was only 90 nautical miles from mainland Palawan following a straight path home when the missile boats chased it down.
But AFP spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said he was only concerned with everyone's security, especially the media, who are reporting in Philippine waters.
"While we understand the journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting, we appeal to them to exercise prudence in the course of their job," Arevalo said.
"The AFP is concerned with the safety and well-being of our Kababayans that we have been forthright and transparent in our reporting about the situation in our EEZ," he added.
The military official also pointed out that they have "accommodated" members of the media through its water and air assets for their coverage "so they can be protected while in the practice of their profession."
AFP's Western Command is tasked to probe the incident, and "validate" the facts.
The Department of National Defense, meanwhile, said the results of the investigation would be used to "coordinate any proper action" through The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).
NUJP BLASTS AFP: WHY BLAME JOURNALISTS?
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said while it welcomed the military's concern on the welfare of the ABS-CBN News team, and other members of the media, it took exception on AFP's remark regarding the importance of "exercising prudence."
The group said the Filipino vessel is inside the country's territory, which is legal and "presumably safe."
"It is almost like the military is asking the Filipino journalists ‘what were you doing there?’ Even the better question might be aimed at the AFP: What were you not doing there?" the statement read.
"An even more important question is what the Chinese military was doing in our waters and how the Duterte administration plans to address this incident."
Malacañang earlier in the day refused to comment on the incident, and said it was referring the matter to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the DND.
NUJP also expressed its gratitude to the ABS-CBN News team who went to the "extra nautical miles to get a better perspective on the situation" in the West Philippine Sea.
Beijing often invokes the so-called nine-dash line to justify its apparent historic rights over most of the South China Sea, and it has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared this assertion to be without basis.
- With a report from Agence France-Presse