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Pinoy captain defies Chinese command to veer away from the Panatag Shoal

A Filipino ship captain defied the commands issued by a Chinese "naval warship" to veer away from the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, which has been ruled internationally as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

As narrated by Green Aura's captain, Manolo Ebora, he was instructed by a Chinese vessel to change course and veer away from the Panatag Shoal.

"This is China Coast Guard. This area is under the jurisdiction of Chinese government. You should keep away from this area," an official of the Chinese warship was recorded as saying in a video released on GMA's "24 Oras Weekend" on Sunday.

"I just maintain my passage. How come this one is a Chinese territory? I'm just passing, innocent. So you mean this is Chinese? I think this is Philippine waters. This is Scarborough, it's not Chinese," Ebora, a Filipino, responded.

The area has already been declared by an international arbitral tribunal as an international fishing ground and within the Philippines' 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The Green Aura, a Liberian registered tanker under Ebora's command, was sailing to China, but was instructed by the Chinese Coast Guard to instead take another course instead of the one taking them close to the Panatag Shoal.

When Ebora maintained his course, he said two Chinese vessels sailed close to the Green Aura and tried to block its path.

"Nag-cross 'yun sa akin, talagang humarang siya sa tapat ko. Para niya akong inaalis. Siyempre kung tumigil siya don, iiwas naman ako," he narrated.

"Ang masakit lang doon ay may nagtataboy na kanila na daw 'yun," added Ebora.

The Green Aura's master reported the incident to the Philippine Navy a day after, or on October 1, 2019.

For his part, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana downplayed the confrontation as he noted that the Green Aura was able to sail on to its destination and that the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea was already looking into the proper actions to be taken.

"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," said Lorenzana.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said they would look into the matter.

"We will verify the facts of the incident then relevant offices will make the appropriate recommendations," it said in a separate statement. — Jon Viktor Cabuenas/DVM, GMA News