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Duterte to declare lagoon in Scarborough off limits to fishermen

globalnation / Nation
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Duterte to declare lagoon in Scarborough off limits to fishermen

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 08:54 AM November 21, 2016
Satellite image of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, which located 124 nautical miles west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

President Duterte is set to declare the triangular lagoon inside Scarborough Shoal as a marine sanctuary where Filipino and Chinese fishermen would not be allowed to fish or gather marine produce. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Chinese President Xi Jinping had committed to work with Duterte to create and promote a favorable environment in the disputed territory. INQUIRER FILE

LIMA, Peru — President Duterte will issue an executive order unilaterally declaring the triangle-shaped lagoon inside the disputed Scarborough Shoal a marine sanctuary, where neither Filipino nor Chinese fishermen would be allowed to fish.

Mr. Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping of his intentions during their bilateral discussion on Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit here, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who was present at the meeting.

READ: Esperon: A ‘win-win’ for PH, China on Panatag

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“The President has decided to declare that as a sanctuary. That is a unilateral action from government,” he said, referring to the lagoon “as big as Quezon City” and known to be a spawning area for fish.

Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground locally known as Panatag. It has been under the control of Chinese authorities since 2012, though China has recently allowed Filipinos to fish again in the area as a result of warming ties with the Philippines.

Esperon said Mr. Duterte “clearly talked about maritime arrangements” with Xi, including the prospect of cooperation between their coast guards.

“The implication and the effect of this is that there will be more coast guard-to-coast guard relations in areas like Scarborough and, of course, in other areas of the South China Sea, West Philippine Sea,” he told reporters in a briefing.

“The President has decided to declare that as a sanctuary. That is a unilateral action from government,” he said, referring to the lagoon “as big as Quezon City” and known to be a spawning area for fish.

Such cooperation between the two coast guards “simply means that there is a degree of demilitarization in the area,” he said, stressing that coast guards are generally civilian forces.

“We call that the white ships going there, compared to gray ships going to Scarborough,” Esperon said.

He said it was the Philippine position that there should be no more fishing activities inside the “triangle,” where Filipino fishermen currently were not being allowed to fish by the Chinese coast guards in the area.
Esperon said the Philippines was aware that the Chinese were also not fishing in the lagoon based on satellite monitoring.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who was also at the meeting, said XI’s verbatim reply to Mr. Duterte’s proposal was: “We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment.”

He said the “desired arrangement” by the Philippine side was to have both Filipino and Chinese fishermen fishing outside the triangle.

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Asked about how Xi responded to Mr. Duterte’s statement, Esperon said the Chinese leader’s reply was along the lines of “an agreement that is not part of an agreement.”

“It was a very oriental response,” he said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who was also at the meeting, said XI’s verbatim reply to Mr. Duterte’s proposal was: “We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment.”

“That was what he said after Presidente Duterte talked about his unilateral declaration [to turn the Scarborough lagoon] into a marine sanctuary,” he said. CBB

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TAGS: APEC, China, Features, Global Nation, marine sanctuary, Panatag Shoal, Rodrigo Duterte, Scarborough lagoon, Scarborough Shoal, Xi Jinping
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