Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin denied claims that the Philippines harassed Chinese fishermen at the Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal), likening the country to an “ant” facing an “elephant.”

“Paanong maaapi ng langgam ang isang elepante? (How can an ant bully an elephant?),” the defense chief told reporters by phone.

Gazmin made the remark when asked to comment on China’s claims that the Philippines “harassed” Chinese fishermen at the shoal.

The claims, which appeared in local newspapers, came even after Gazmin said a Chinese plane tried to scare away a Filipino fishing vessel at the shoal by “buzzing” over it.

Gazmin said it was high time that Filipinos display patriotism and nationalism, as the government needs the people’s help in letting the world know that the Philippines is the one being bullied.

“(Kailangang) ma-instill natin dun sa mga tao, para mahalin nila ‘yung bayan natin by supporting the government’s stand right now against China,” he said.

“Kinakailangan lang talagang malaman ng mga tao na itong ginagawa ng gobyerno ay para sa kapakanan ng bawat ng Pilipino… kinakailangang tumulong ang mga tao upang sa ganon malaman ng buong mundo na tayo ay naaapi,” the defense chief added.

Earlier, newspapers quoted Chinese embassy spokesman Zhang Hua as saying that a Philippine Navy ship “harassed” 12 Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon of “Huangyan Island,” Beijing’s name for Scarborough.

Hua insisted that the “island” is China’s territory, saying that the area was not covered by the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the 1900 Treaty of Washington, and the 1930 Treaty with Great Britain, which he said defined the Philippines’ territory.

The Philippines never disputed China’s jurisdiction over the “island,” until 1997, Hua claimed. (John Roson)

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