Chinese envoy reminds Filipino fishers of West PH Sea ‘limits’
MANILA, Philippines — Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua on Monday said Filipino fishermen can continue fishing in the West Philippine Sea, but he reminded them of certain “limits” in the disputed areas.
Zhao made the remark amid reports that Chinese coast guards drove away Filipino fishers from the Panatag Shoal, a traditional Filipino fishing ground within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
“I think we are concerned about the livelihood of fishermen from both sides. And if they think they can fish in the areas where they catch fish, they can go,” Zhao told reporters in Malacañang before he met with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
The Chinese envoy, however, claimed that “there are some concerns from each side (on) how far they can go, and to what extent they can go near the islands and reefs” that China controls.
“So there are certain kinds of limits that I think both sides are observing,” Zhao said.
“For example, Chinese fishing vessels getting too close to the Chung-yeh island (Pag-Asa Island), there might be some concerns on your side, but if fishermen getting too close to the islands that we have people, there might be concerns. But in general, fishing can go on as usual,” he added.
The two countries, which have been locked in a territorial dispute for years now, previously agreed to let fishermen freely navigate the South China Sea, except for marine protected areas. The supposed harassment of Filipino fishers, however, has been reported a number of times.
The Philippines filed a case challenging China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013.
The arbitral tribunal favored the Philippines three years later, but China refused to recognize the ruling.
The Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte, has opted to set aside the landmark decision and instead engage China in bilateral talks. /ee
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