15 September 2014

DFA launches radio forum on sea row

Being on the frontlines on the issue of China’s illegal occupation of the Philippines’ Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has launched its first-ever Special Kapihan ng Mamamayan on the West Philippine Sea Issue in Olongapo City, Zambales.

Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, which is a part of the municipality of Masinloc, has become one of the hotly contested areas in the West Philippine Sea since the standoff between the Philippines and China in April 2012.

DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Charles Jose was the guest speaker at the forum on Friday at Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City.

The Special Kapihan was jointly organized by the DFA and the Philippine Information Agency.

The DFA said a series of Special Kapihans will be held throughout the year until 2015 as part of the the department’s nationwide campaign to bring the West Philippine Sea issue to the grassroots of Philippine society.

Conducted largely in the vernacular language, the forum aims to explain the West Philippine Sea issue to ordinary Filipinos and gain their support for the steps being undertaken by the government to address the problem.

“The situation in the West Philippine Sea is an issue that has implications in the country’s security and economy,” Jose said.

Participants in the kapihan included local media representatives and local government officials.

While in Olongapo City, Jose also talked about the West Philippine Sea on radio programs, including the Mayor’s Report hosted by Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino.

The next forum will be held in Palawan, another frontline province in the maritime disputes.

The Philippines protested in February the firing of water cannons at Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal and harassment incidents reportedly committed by Chinese authorities.

China prohibits Filipinos from undertaking fishing activities in Panatag Shoal. It rejected the Philippine protest, insisting it has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters.

Bajo de Masinloc, 124 nautical miles from Zambales and nearly 500 nautical miles from the nearest coast of China, is part of Masinloc municipality.

The Philippines exercises effective jurisdiction over Bajo de Masinloc and historical maps show that it is within its territory since the Spanish period. A Philippine flag has been hoisted in the shoal.

In the 1960s, the Philippines even built and operated a lighthouse there.

The area was also used as a target range by naval and air forces of the Philippines and the United States.

New radio station

Local and foreign radio enthusiasts are setting up a radio station in Kalayaan town on Pag-Asa island in the hotly-contested Spratlys archipelago, not only to guide mariners but also to promote awareness of the prevailing Philippine maritime dispute with China.

An air-conditioned building behind the town’s municipal hall is nearing completion to house the station’s broadcast center and other communication facilities, Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said. (Pia Lee Brago, Jaime Laude, Philippine Star)

DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Charles Jose interacts with listeners in Zambales in a radio interview over SBMA-PBS radio station DWSB 89.5 FM Subic Bay Radio. (AED)