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Lorenzana: Scarborough 'harassment' incident should not be blown out of proportion

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said the "harassment" incident in Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) last September 30 "should not be blown out of proportion or sensationalized."

"Since the Green Aura, a Liberian ship, was able to safely reach its intended port of destination unimpeded, we believe that what happened should not be blown out of proportion or sensationalized," he said in a statement.

Lorenzana added an official report of the incident has been forwarded to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea for appropriate action.

Meanwhile, he added that other countries should "exercise prudence and respect freedom of navigation and passage" in the West Philippine Sea.

Last September 30, a Greek-owned oil tanker manned by Filipino crewmen was harassed by a "Chinese naval warship" near the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Captain Manolo Ebora and his 21 Filipino crewmen were onboard the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Green Aura and were passing within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal at around 7:30 p.m. when their radar detected the presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the vicinity.

According to Ebora, they were already near the shoal when they received a radio call from what claimed to be a "Chinese naval warship."

The Chinese ship then ordered Green Aura to stay 10 nautical miles away from the shoal, to which the captain resisted, pointing out that they had the right to pass through the area since the shoal is Filipino territory, not Chinese.

Scarborough Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, is well within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and it was declared in the 2016 arbitral ruling that it is a common fishing area.

According to Lorenzana, the Chinese government must "respect international maritime laws if it wants to earn the respect of the international community." —Ma. Angelica Garcia/KG, GMA News