Palace justifies Duterte’s latest remark on WPS: Disputed water not rich fishing ground
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday justified President Rodrigo Duterte’s word that he won’t confront China unless it starts drilling for oil in the West Philippine Sea, pointing out that the disputed water is not a known rich resource of fishes – even maintaining that Filipino fishermen are not prevented from fishing in the area.
According to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, the West Philippine Sea is described on maps as “dangerous grounds” because it is full of rocks there.
In a pre-recorded speech that aired Monday night, Duterte said he would only send warships if China starts drilling for oil, as there was not enough fish to “quarrel” about in the West Philippine Sea.
“Hindi naman talaga kilala itong body of water na ito for fishing kasi ang description niyan sa mga mapa, dangerous grounds kasi mabato ‘yan,” Roque said in an online briefing.
(This body of water is not known for fishing because its description on the map is dangerous grounds since it has many rocks.)
“Although dahil sa laki nga po nyan, may mga areas talaga na renowned for fishing gaya ng Scarborough Shoal. Pero ang Scarborough Shoal po ay hiwalay sa Kalayaan Group of Islands na pinagaawayan. So we cannot make a conclusion na yung area talaga is rich in fisheries,” he added.
(Although because it is big, there are areas renowned for fishing like Scarborough Shoal. But this is separate from the disputed Kalayaan Group of Islands. So we cannot make a conclusion that this area is rich in fisheries.)
Roque further said Filipino fisherfolk are free to fish in the West Philippine Sea despite China’s presence there.
“Alam niyo po noong minsan ako’y naging abogado ng mga mangingisda dyan sa Scarborough, pinagbawalan sila noong panahon ni Presidente [Noynoy] Aquino pero sila po’y malayang nakapangingisda muli ngayon,” he said.
(I was once a lawyer of fishermen in Scarborough, they were once barred from fishing during the time of President Aquino but now they are free to fish there.)
“At bagamat merong mga barko doon ng Tsina, hindi po sila pinipigilan ngayon. Wala pa naman pong report na pinagbabawalan ang ating mga kababayan na mangisda,” he added.
(Although China’s ships are present there, they are not prevented from fishing. So far, there are no reports that our countrymen are being barred from fishing.)
But only in January this year, a China Coast Guard ship tried to drive away a Filipino fishing boat that was on its way to one of the sandbars near the Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.