Palace to fishermen: Sail with caution to Scarborough
EVEN with the Philippines’ international legal victory invalidating China’s claim to most of the South China Sea, Malacañang advised fisherfolk to “proceed with caution” when they venture out to the waters off Scarborough shoal.
According to the President’s spokesperson Ernesto Abella, the government would not stop them from returning to their fishing grounds, which China also claims. But Abella said they should be careful.
The Scarborough Shoal, also known locally as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, has been the traditional fishing ground of fishermen from the coastal villages of Zambales and Pangasinan.
“We’re not saying fishermen are prevented. However, they are cautioned to proceed with care,” Abella said in a press briefing yesterday.
As to whether the government would take action to protect the fisherfolk, such as sending the coast guard to patrol the waters or asking China to back off, Abella said people should just wait for the government’s statement on the arbitration court’s ruling.
According to him, the government is “thinking through our right response,” and its initial statement on the decision could be expected after Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay returns from the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit in Mongolia.
During the summit, the Philippines intends to rally international support for its victory in the arbitral tribunal and for getting China to respect the ruling that rejected its claim to much of the South China Sea.
China boycotted the arbitration proceedings and said it would not recognize the court’s ruling.
There were reports that Philippine fishermen continue to be chased off the Scarborough Shoal waters despite the decision.
The United States yesterday reiterated that all nations staking a claim over the South China Sea, like the Philippines and China, “should act within legal, diplomatic and peaceful means to settle disputes.”
“We are urging all countries to exercise restraint, avoid provocations of any kind, so we can allow diplomacy to take place…so we can allow the legal decision that has just been rendered to also take root,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
Goldberg spoke at the launch of a Philippine-American Friendship Day photo exhibit at the Baguio Museum.
He advised feuding nations “to show restraint, to be calm, to read the decision, [and] to abide by the international law.”
“There are three important principles involved in our interest in the South China Sea issue,” Goldberg said. “The first was the support we gave the Philippines [concerning] its right to bring a case before the international tribunal under the law of the seas. And we urged, of course, before that decision [was made] that all countries…observe the decision as binding.”
“Secondly, we support the right of freedom of navigation, on the sea and in the air. We have been doing that for many, many decades. We still do it and will continue to do it,” he said.
“The third interest [is] we have a very important treaty ally in the Philippines…We are also supporting the Philippines to bring about legal, peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the issues in the South China Sea and that is what the [Duterte] government here is undertaking,” he said.
Local officials have discouraged fishermen from proceeding to the Scarborough Shoal to avoid encounters with the Chinese coast guards. Reports from Vincent Cabreza and Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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