Mayor of PH island town tells fishermen to keep off area with Chinese ships
MANILA, Philippines—The mayor of Kalayaan in the West Philippine Sea, with jurisdiction over Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, has advised the town’s fishermen to stay away from Chinese ships to avoid raising further tensions in the disputed waters.
“My instruction is for them to just stay near the area, there’s plenty of fish there aside from the sandbar near Subi Reef,” said Mayor Roberto Del Mundo, reacting to a report by a fisherman in the town about a China Coast Guard ship blocking his path on Monday (Jan. 25).
Fisherman Larry Hugo earlier said a white Chinese government ship prevented him from going to one of the sandbars near Pag-asa, a traditional fishing ground which China is claiming to own along with nearly the entire South China Sea.
The mayor has acknowledged that cases of Chinese ships blocking Filipino fishermen do happen there, but he argued it was nothing like what the fishermen in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal are experiencing, like being chased or being driven away by water cannon.
“That’s really happening there always, they drive you away,” said Del Mundo. “Once they get near, it means you should go away. But nothing happens like that in Scarborough,” the mayor said. “We’ve been there long and nothing happens it’s like they’re shooing you away,” he added.
But the situation leaves Del Mundo with not much of a choice. “It seems wrong if you think about it,” he said. “That’s really ours and we’re supposed to be the one shooing them away,” he added. “But the armed forces is just trying to get a feel of the situation. There are instructions to them not to take any action that would ruin our relationship,” the mayor said.
“As the municipality of Kalayaa, we just follow the national government, the DFA and DND, on what instruction is needed,” said Del Mundo.
The mayor said the national government is also doing its best to protest Chinese aggression. “There’s so much being done there but it seems China is hardening its stance, isn’t it?” he said.