PH fishers want assurance of access to Panatag
SUBIC, Zambales — Chinese President Xi Jinping had come and gone, but fishermen in Zambales province said they had not heard if the government fought for their right to fish unhampered at Panatag Shoal and other parts of the West Philippine Sea.
Laureano Artagame, head of the municipal fishing vessel registry office here, said the fishermen had been waiting for concrete plans for their access to Panatag, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal and located 230 kilometers off the coast of Zambales.
No clear details
“There were no clear details about those agreements [made between President Duterte and Xi]. Do they benefit us fishermen? We are still not assured of anything,” Artagame told the Inquirer on Wednesday.
Located within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Panatag has been guarded by Chinese Coast Guard vessels since 2012, after China grabbed the shoal from the Philippines.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, ruling in 2016 on a challenge brought by the Philippines, invalidated China’s sweeping claim and upheld the Philippines’ right to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea.
West Philippine Sea is the local name of waters within the country’s EEZ.
China ignored the arbitral ruling and the Duterte administration set it aside in exchange for aid, loans and investment from China. —Reports from Allan Macatuno and Joanna Aglibot
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