China: Filipinos allowed to fish in WPS ‘out of goodwill’
Filipino fishermen have long been allowed by China to fish in relevant waters “out of goodwill” from the Chinese government, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang.
“China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill. This policy remains unchanged,” Geng said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The assurance came after reports that Filipino fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea have been harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard. In a cellphone footage from a television network’s documentary program, members of the Chinese Coast Guard were seen boarding the Filipino boats asking for fish.
They eventually returned to their speed boats as the Filipinos have not made any catch at that time.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Saturday that he would have to verify if the reports were true, as the video was “inconclusive”.
On Monday, Roque presented the fishermen in the documentary, who turned out to be his clients when he filed cases against China in 2015. Rommel Cejuela of Masinloc, Zambales who was with Roque during the briefing, believes that China is still in control of shoal.
“Sa tingin ko ngayon, Tsina pa rin,” Cejuela said.
For Roque, while members of the Chinese Coast Guard might have taken some of the Filipino fishermen’s catch, these were done in exchange for other basic goods, much like a barter system.
He also said the incident is not a form of harassment, even if Cejuela said the Chinese themselves would board and move around their boats, looking for fish.
“I wouldn’t say that its harassment. You know what harassment is during the time of President [Benigno] Aquino [III]? Water cannons were used against them (fishermen). They were rammed, they were targeted by live guns,” Roque said.
Geng explained that the Chinese Coast Guard’s role is to maintain peace in the region. He also shared Roque’s sentiments, saying that Chinese authorities in the shoal are there to help Filipinos.
“The Chinese coast guards have been safeguarding peace, order and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aids to Philippine fishermen for many times,” Geng said.
However, Cejuela said that it is only the Chinese Coast Guard who is seen patrolling the area—their Filipino counterparts are nowhere to be found.
“Wala po, walang Philippine Coast Guard na nakakapunta ngayon diyan,” he said. /muf
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