MANILA -- The Otso Diretso opposition senatorial slate rejected Wednesday Malacañang's statement that its supposed visit to Scarborough Shoal was a publicity ploy.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Monday barred senatorial candidates from going to the resource-rich shoal when they took their campaign to Masinloc town, Zambales, home to fishermen who were allegedly harassed by Chinese fishermen.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo afterwards dubbed the trip as a "publicity stunt."
"Yung ginawa namin, hindi siya publicity stunt," said former Solicitor General and senatorial candidate Pilo Hilbay.
(What we did was not a publicity stunt.)
"We are just calling out the President for a promise that he made. Ang original na publicity stunt ay 'yung jet ski niya," he added, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promise in 2016 to ride a jet ski to the Spratly Islands and plant a Philippine flag there.
Opposition bets are still bent on going to Scarborough Shoal and will apply for clearance from the PCG, said Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.
Peace advocate Samira Gutoc, meanwhile, downplayed the issue of her wrongly worn life vest and stressed that the concerns of the fishermen around Scarborough Shoal should be addressed.
“Instead na i-bash ako sa mali na pag-wear ng vest, ang question sa inyo BFAR at Presidente, is to address ang sinabi sa amin ng fisher folk. Talagang limitado ang kanilang [galaw], hindi kami nag-iimbento ng impormasyon,” Gutoc said.
(Instead of bashing me for wearing my vest wrongly, the question for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the President, is to address the concerns of the fisher folk that we are relaying. Their movements are really limited, we are not fabricating information.)
Senate hopeful Erin Tañada also challenged other candidates to venture out into the West Philippine Sea.
“Samahan po nila kami na pumunta doon, lahat ng kandidato na sila ay naniniwala na importante ang kasarinlan natin,” Tanada said.
(They should accompany us there, all candidates who believe that our sovereignty is important.)