Fishers to Panelo: Chinese harassment in Panatag real | Global News
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Fishers to Panelo: Chinese harassment in Panatag real

/ 05:05 AM March 28, 2019

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines — A militant fishers’ group slammed presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo for casting doubt on the stories of fisherfolk who were allegedly being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard in Panatag Shoal.

Instead of demanding proof from Filipino fishermen, the government should instead conduct an “on-the-ground investigation” of their situation in the disputed waters, Pamalakaya (Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas) said.

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“By asking proof about the harassment in Scarborough Shoal, is the government accusing our fisherfolk of lying about their situation?” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chair, in a statement on Tuesday. “Why can’t the government trust its own fisherfolk and help them get back to their fishing waters peacefully?”

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Pamalakaya said Panelo should be condemned for dismissing the concerns of the fisherfolk in Panatag, many of whom had previously aired their grievances against the bullying of Chinese authorities.

“Our question to Mr. Panelo: Whose side is the Duterte [administration] on? Because we don’t feel any sympathy or concern from our government in the midst of this ongoing aggressive invasion of China,” Hicap said.

Despite the Philippines’ win over the disputed waters before an international tribunal in The Hague, China continues to claim 90 percent of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Panatag lies 240 km southwest of the coastline of Zambales province, well within the EEZ.

Duterte-Xi meet

According to Panelo, President Duterte may raise with Chinese President Xi Jinping the issue of the alleged harassment of fishermen by the Chinese Coast Guard if the report is “validated” to be true.

Panelo, on Tuesday, said Mr. Duterte might meet Xi when the former attends the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April.

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“We will have a trip to Beijing upon the invitation of President Xi. That issue can be raised there. We have to put an end to it. What is it, really? If it continues, will you stop it or not?” Panelo said in a radio interview.

He stressed that the Philippine government would not tolerate the harassment of Filipino fishermen, saying it will assert their fishing rights in Philippine waters. —Reports from Jhesset O. Enano and Julie M. Aurelio

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TAGS: harassed fishermen, maritime dispute, Pamalakaya, Panatag Shoal, Salvador Panelo, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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