‘No written deals on Filipinos’ return to Scarborough’
The Philippine government on Sunday said no written agreements were made with China following the return of Filipino fishermen to the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which was seized by the Asian superpower after a standoff in 2012.
“There are no written agreements or rules but Filipino fishermen who went there lately attest that they were not driven away nor were accosted,” national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon said in a statement.
“And for the record, from Oct. 17 to 27, there had been only 2 Chinese ships in Bajo de Masinloc: a research ship last 19th and a Frigate(navy) on the 20th. That’s compared to daily average of 5 People’s Liberation Army Navy and 4 Chinese Coast Guard ships in the past,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that at least four Chinese Coast Guard ships were spotted by a Philippine Navy plane in the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal during a surveillance flight over the weekend. This was contrary to previous report of the Philippine Coast Guard that the Chinese had already left the area.
Filipino fishers were granted access to the shoal following President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a state visit to China, where Philippine officials sealed billions worth of investment projects and credit pledges.
Without going into details of his meeting with Chinese authorities, Duterte then said Filipinos may soon fish again in the Scarborough Shoal.
The President earlier said the Philippines “cannot win” the case of the Scarborough or the Panatag Shoal, the traditional fishing ground that China seized from the country after a two-month standoff in 2012. He said he has a “good feeling” the Philippines will be “OK” with China as long as Filipinos do not claim Panatag.
The United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in the Hague, The Netherlands ruled that all claimant countries can fish in the Panatag Shoal, but China rejected the ruling and drove Filipino fishermen away from the shoal.
In a separate statement, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Malacañang “welcomes the good development for our fishermen at the Panatag Shoal.” RAM/rga
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