Senators to Duterte: Use close ties with China for PH fishers’ sake
The administration should use its close ties with China to address the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) personnel and avoid escalating any friction with the Asian giant, two senators said on Saturday.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan advised prudence, saying that a recent television report that members of the CCG had seized choice parts of the catch of a group of Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal must be verified.
“Let us not be rash,” Honasan said over dwIZ’s radio’s “Usapang Senado” program.
He said that if the fishermen’s allegations were proven, the government should first inform China’s ambassador. The country also should avoid a “low-intensity confrontation or an armed encounter” with Chinese forces, he added.
Filipino fishermen have reported that CCG personnel routinely take parts of their catch as they watch helplessly, according to the GMA 7 television report.
Top trade partner
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said he believed the CCG action was a case of an individual acting against another individual, suggesting that it was not state-sanctioned, although the Philippine government may file a complaint on behalf of its citizen.
Speaking in the same radio show, Pimentel said Filipinos should look at the entirety of Manila-Beijing ties, citing China’s contributions to the Philippines as a top trading partner and as a source of investments, tourists and assistance during calamities.
After receiving similar reports, the Philippines as early as February expressed its concerns to China in a meeting, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Chinese officials at the meeting “took note” of the concerns and promised to look into the reported incidents, according to two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The Philippines intends to raise its concern again in another meeting with China, possibly in September, due to continuing reports of such incidents, the officials said.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday said the Chinese actions violated the international arbitral tribunal’s July 2016 ruling throwing out China’s claims over almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The government must protest against the Chinese actions or file another case against Beijing, he said.
Pimentel said the government should use “different levels of contact” with China to deal with such issues, noting that President Duterte could directly communicate with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan also had ties with the Chinese Communist Party, he added.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Saturday indicated that the government seemed to be retreating from the West Philippine Sea in the face of China’s military might.
He said military sources had told him that the Duterte administration late last year ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to stop patrolling the West Philippine Sea “because nothing will happen anyway.”
But the military protested, saying it would be remiss in its mandate to protect Philippine sovereignty, he said.
“Allegedly, a compromise was arrived at to just conduct a patrol once a month but this has been hardly followed,” he said in a statement.
‘No such order’
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, “No such order was given.”
“That’s impossible,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
Alejano was a victim of “fake news,” AFP public information officer Col. Edgard Arevalo said.
“For the record, there is no such order coming from the Commander in Chief. As a matter of fact, our maritime and aerial patrols continue, contrary to such information allegedly received by the party-list congressman,” he added. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND AP
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