(PN file photo)

Experts have expressed concerns over fearmongering amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, following recommendations to close Palawan Province to tourists and mobilize locals for territorial defense against China.

At El Nido Forum, calls were made for President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos to temporarily close Palawan Province to both foreign and local tourists.

The suggestion comes as tensions escalate in the West Philippine Sea, aiming to mobilize residents to protect and defend the territory.

“President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos must temporarily close the entire Palawan Province to foreign and local tourists due to hightened tension in West Philippine Sea and mobilize the people instead to protect and defend our territory from China once the situation escalates in this region,” the message spreading in private chat groups and other forums claimed.

Concerns were also raised regarding the potential for the Western Command and foreign forces stationed in Puerto Princesa to become targets for airstrikes by China if conflict erupts.

“Be sure to have an escape plan from the city. People trapped in cities in war history were the most piteous,” the post said, highlighting the importance of preparedness and having sufficient medication supplies for six months to one year.

The National Security Council (NSC) has earlier criticized several groups for allegedly parroting China’s narrative and fearmongering in the West Philippine Sea.

NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya stated in a news forum that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have been strategically defeated and no longer pose a threat.

However, Malaya noted that some groups linked to them, such as Pamalakaya and Bayan Muna, have been echoing China’s propaganda, suggesting that the Philippines is provoking China.

Fearmongering, or the act of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue, can significantly impact the West Philippine Sea dispute. It can escalate tensions by creating a heightened sense of threat and urgency among the population, leading to potential overreactions and increased hostility.

In the case of the West Philippine Sea, he said fearmongering can strain diplomatic efforts, disrupt local economies, and provoke unnecessary panic, further complicating the already sensitive geopolitical situation.

Several groups, including the NDF, have criticized President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for relying on the United States for aid amid China’s growing aggression in the West Philippine Sea. They claim that increasing Washington’s military presence in the Philippines makes Manila a target of Beijing’s ire.