Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WesCom) welcome Partido Reporma chairman and standard-bearer Panfilo “Ping” Lacson upon his arrival in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Saturday morning (November 20).
Lacson is in the province to make a scheduled visit to Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan, Palawan to consult with and check on local residents and fishermen in the area amid recent tensions over the West Philippine Sea.
On Tuesday, three Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired off a water cannon on two Philippine ships to stop them from going to Ayungin Shoal. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. promptly protested the incident in “the strongest terms” to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and even reminded China that the attacked Philippine ships are “public vessels” and covered by the Philippine-US defense treaty.
China, however, remained unapologetic and said that the Philippine boats “trespassed into the waters” near Ayungin Shoal (international name: Second Thomas Shoal, Chinese name: Ren’ai Jiao).
The AFP WesCom is expected to brief Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, on the status of Pag-asa Island. The visit is also part of his ongoing serious commitment to study the matter as one of the presidential aspirants seeking to lead the country in the next six years.
Also known as Thitu Island, Pag-asa is the second largest of the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.