Captains John Donguines and Geo Villacastin received unfriendly warnings from the Chinese Navy on their way to Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan, Palawan to transport Partido Reporma standard-bearer Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and his team last Saturday (November 20).
The co-pilots were flying the senator and his party aboard a private Pilatus PC-12 aircraft from the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City for their scheduled visit and consultation with the local residents and soldiers occupying Pag-asa Island.
Authorities from the Chinese Navy radioed with the following message: “You are approaching our military zone. Please stay away from the area and leave immediately. Your actions are unfriendly and dangerous. Your actions are dangerous.”
“This is Chinese Navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately in order to avoid misjudgment,” the Chinese authorities later added. The pilots responded with calm to defuse the tension, according to Partido Reporma spokesperson Ashley Acedillo.
“Meron naman pong standard na reply at bago tayo lumipad doon nagkaroon po ng koordinasyon ang mga pribadong piloto natin sa mga awtoridad natin sa AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” said Acedillo who joined Lacson on his visit.
(Our private pilots had a standard reply and before we flew there, they had coordination with our authorities from the AFP.)
While nothing untoward happened during their mission, Lacson admitted that he found it rather unusual, especially when he received a text notification on his phone with the message “Welcome to China” as soon as they landed on Pag-asa Island.
Partido Reporma president and former House Speaker Pantaleon ‘Bebot’ Alvarez, secretary-general and Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib, senatorial candidate Guillermo Eleazar, and National Unity Party chairman Ronaldo Puno were also with Lacson during the trip.