The Naval Forces West (NFW) has downplayed the presence of Chinese nationals caught taking pictures and touring inside their Tide Pole facility in Barangay Bagong Silang by claiming “they are not spies”.
NFW commander Commo. Sean Anthony Villa said they believe that the two Chinese groups they accosted inside the Tide Pole in Parola on the night of July 23 were plain tourists who wanted to see the shrine of the late House speaker Ramon V. Mitra.
In Monday’s regular media briefing, he said that the shrine is indicated as a tour site in the map that the Chinese nationals were carrying with them.
Villa said that upon learning this, they immediately contacted the City Tourism Office (CTO) to request for information regarding the inclusion of their area in the tour map.
He said there is a need for the NFW and the CTO to sit down together and discuss this so problems can be avoided in the future.
“Doon sa Tide Pole ay may nakasulat na restricted area, it is restricted hindi lang sa foreigners kundi sa lahat ng hindi authorize pumasok sa ating naval facility. Noong napansin na papasok na sila ay tinanong sila kung ano ang gagawin nila doon, ito ‘yong reason kung bakit tinawagan namin ang city tourism. Kung puwede sana ay alisin na as tourist spot ang Mitra Shrine kasi ‘yon ang kasama doon [sa mapa na dala ng mga Chinese],” Villa said.
He said proper coordination should have been done with them before anyone is allowed to visit the Tide Pole Naval Facility as a tourist destination.
Villa said it was good that the duty navy personnel on that day was quick enough to notice that they were foreigners.
“Kung may papasok man doon dapat sana at least i-inform man lang kami para alam namin, hindi ‘yong bigla lang papasok,” he said.
Villa also clarified that the Chinese groups were not able to enter their premises.
He said their selfie photos were taken outside the gate and not within the Tide Pole.
“Actually, parang nagse-selfie lang naman sila, hanggang sa gate lang sila. Kapag nandoon ka ay hindi mo makikita ang mga facilities. Based sa pagtatanong sa kanila ay inosente naman sila at naiintindihan naman nila na hindi pala sila puwede dapat doon. Kaya we are requesting the city na kapag may pupunta doon ay i-inform kami,” Villa said.
Villa said he believes that if there is any intention to spy, the Chinese nationals will not be bold enough to go to the naval facility.
“I don’t think na pupunta sila ng harap-harapan and papasok pa sila doon. I don’t think may bad intention kasi kung meron ay hindi ka basta papasok doon katulad ng sinasabi na baka sila ay spy. Basta kapag restricted ay hindi puwedeng pumasok,” he said.
Previously, city tourism chief Aileen Cynthia Amurao said they will cooperate with the Navy.
However, she also clarified that their office had nothing to do with the Chinese groups visiting the Tide Pole.
“Sabi ko nga first time siya na nangyari, parang Monday or Tuesday. We are cooperating. Actually, I am attending several meetings pagdating dyan sa Western Command (WESCOM). Marami tayong efforts para mailatag din ang security all over the city not only sa ating mga tourist destinations,” said Amurao.
Amurao said an intelligence officer of the Philippine Navy’s NFW, which she refused to name, went to her office with a letter requesting to prohibit tourists from visiting their base in Parola.
She said the Parola area is not part of any tour package since it is a military installation.
She said it is not clear to her if the Chinese groups went in the area by boat or land transportation.
Amurao noted the naval officer told her that the two groups of Chinese nationals were caught roaming and taking pictures inside the Parola where their new naval ship was berthed.
Amurao said that since CTO cannot prevent the tourists or Chinese nationals from going to the area, it is the call of the Philippine Navy to watch closely anyone who will threaten public security.
“Dapat call niyo ‘yon, you have the authority. Hindi tayo dapat naghuhula-hula. Kung iyan hinold ninyo at in-interrogate. Dapat hinold nila,” Amurao told Palawan News.