The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines welcomes the military’s concern over harassment of a boat carrying ABS-CBN journalist Chiara Zambrano and her team by Chinese vessels in Philippine waters as well as the investigation the Armed Forces of the Philippines has promised.
We take exception however to the AFP’s statement suggesting that the incident was caused by “journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting” and its suggestion for them “to exercise prudence in the course of their job.”
The ABS-CBN team was headed to Ayungin Shoal in Kalayaan, Palawan and was intercepted by Chinese ships while inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. While it is true that the military invites some members of the media to ride along on its ships and its aircraft, an opportunity that we hope is open to all journalists, the team was in a civilian boat sailing in Philippine waters, an act that is legal in the Philippines and presumably safe.
It is almost like the military is asking the Filipino journalists “what were you doing there?” even when the better question might be aimed at the AFP: What were you not doing there?
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.
We are glad that Zambrano and her team were able to return safely to the Palawan mainland after the encounter with Chinese vessels around 200 kilometers away.
We commend them for going the extra nautical miles to try to get a better perspective on the situation in the West Philippine Sea.
April 9, 2021