By Tessa Jamandre, VERA Files
FORMER Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon was all set to sail on Friday to the disputed Scarborough Shoal to make a stand on Philippine sovereignty—until the call from the President came.
Former Marine Capt. Nicanor said President Benigno Aquino III prevailed upon him to postpone his trip. He agreed, saying he "trust(s) the wisdom of the government that it will be better for current efforts to resolve the standoff there."
The standoff between China and the Philippines has dragged on since April 10 when China sent its maritime surveillance ships to prevent the arrest of Chinese fishermen found with sizable quantities of endangered marine species, corals, live sharks and giant clams by the Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF15) on patrol near the shoal which the Philippines calls Panatag Shoal. The shoal is also known as Bajo de Masinloc and is 124 nautical miles off the coast of Zambales.
Faeldon, who was granted amnesty in April last year for his participation in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, had organized a contingent of about 20 fishermen to sail with him to Scarborough Shoal supposedly to show support to the Philippine position against China's sovereignty claim over the area.
He said in an interview he had prepared food and other supply to last his group for a few days in Panatag Shoal. A flag pole was also supposed to be loaded to their motorized boat as they were considering hoisting the Philippine flag there.
Faeldon said, however, the President urged him to postpone his trip to give way to ongoing talks with China as his protest action might be misinterpreted.
Palace Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed the call the President made to Faeldon asking him "to reconsider his plans, as it might be misconstrued."
He added the Coast Guard also dissuaded him from proceeding with the voyage, while the Army's 24th Infantry Battalion commander, Col. Michael Samson, personally met with him to talk him out of his plans.
The former Marine captain said his aborted trip was intended to symbolically show Filipinos' support to the government's call for unity and to make a patriotic stand on the territorial row with China over Scarborough Shoal.
"Kagaya ng pinaliwanang ko kay Presidente kanina, ang hirap manawagan tayo na nakaupo lang tayo doon sa ating mga opisina gayong ang ating kapitbahay di tayo di tayo pinakikinggan. Baka kailangan natin maglayag doon para para magkaisa (As I had explained to the President, it's difficult to make a position just sitting down in our office and our neighbor isn't listening. Perhaps we need to make this voyage to be united)," Faeldon said.
"It's a call for unity, national unity to support the effort of this nation and there's no other purpose," he added.
Faeldon said he will await the development on the ongoing talks with China before deciding his next step. "But as of now, definitely we will postpone the trip," he said.
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario called on Filipinos to unite as a patriotic stand is needed by the country in the face of a running standoff between Chinese maritime vessels and Philippine Coast Guard ships in the Panatag shoal.
China and the Philippines have exchanged a number of diplomatic protests, and are still consulting on possible ways to resolve the impasse.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")