Yasay: Maritime dispute to be dealt with ‘in very quiet diplomatic way’
The Philippine government would use a “very quiet diplomatic way” to address our maritime dispute with China amid reports that Filipino fishermen were harassed by Chinese Coast Guard, a Cabinet official said on Tuesday.
A report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) submitted to the National Security Council-Task Force West Philippine Sea said that Filipino fishermen were reportedly harassed by Chinese Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal early this month.
In a Palace briefing on Tuesday, foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay said the issue would be “threshed out” with China.
“We’re trying to do this in a very quiet diplomatic way,” he told reporters.
Yasay confirmed the presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.
“We have verified that these vessels are not the small kind of vessels that normally traditional fishermen would be using in accessing Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
“We will thresh it out with China to see if this is true. From what we saw, they do not have any fishing activity,” he added.
Citing intelligence reports, Yasay said the Chinese vessels spotted at the disputed sea were not intended for reclamation activities.
“Mukhang walang basehan ang ating mga suspicion or apprehension na they intend to pursue reclamation activities but again, these are matters that we will always readily bring out to the Chinese,” he said.
Early September, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana showed photos that at least 10 Chinese vessels were seen over the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
In the wake of a United Nations ruling favoring the Philippines’ diplomatic protest, China has refused to recognize the landmark decision.
Philippines filed its case before the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) in January 2013 following a tense standoff between Chinese and Philippines ships at Scarborough shoal in April 2012.
The Chinese government has conducted several massive reclamation projects to turn submerged reefs into artificial islands.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would pursue bilateral talks with China as he pleaded to the Chinese government to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the disputed waters.
Duterte is set to visit China this month. TVJ
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