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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista said Chinese coast guard ships used water cannons to drive away Filipino fishing vessels from the disputed Panatag Shoal.
“There was an incident last January 27 where the Chinese Coast Guard tried to drive away the Filipino fishing vessel to the extent of using water cannons. That is the latest so far,” Bautista said on Monday, February 24, during the annual prospects forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
Bautista said the military wasn’t there when it happened last January 27, but the incident was only later reported to them by local fishermen.
The rocky sandbar located off the coast of Zambales has been practically occupied by Chinese ships since the months-long 2012 standoff where the Philippines withdrew. (READ: 3 Chinese ships, 7 PH fishing vessels spotted in Panatag)
The incident happened following reports that China imposed new laws that require foreign fishermen to seek the country’s permission to fish in the area.
Bautista maintained that the military upholds the primacy of peaceful resolution of the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but he said “we will have to react according to our mandate” if violence is committed against local fishermen.
“We will assert our rights. We hope that international opinion can weigh down China,” Bautista said.
Bautista said reports of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the West Philippines Sea remains hypothetical but he added: “We will ignore declarations not consistent with Philippine territorial integrity.” – Rappler.com