Rody to fishermen: Just be patient
Photo provided by fisherman Renato Etac, Chinese Coast Guard members approach his fellow fishermen near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. More than once, the Chinese approached Etac’s boat and pointed their rifles at him, but he says he knew they would not fire and start a war.
AP, file
Rody to fishermen: Just be patient
Giovanni Nilles (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2016 - 10:46pm

MANILA, Philippines - Be patient and wait for word from China.

This was President Duterte’s message to Filipino fishermen anticipating their return to fishing in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

“I leave it to the Chinese authorities what they will do in the next few days. We talked about it but I leave it to them. Tingnan natin (Let’s see) what develops,” he said in an interview after his arrival speech at the Davao International Airport on Friday night.

Before leaving for China, Duterte announced on several occasions that the issue of fishing at Panatag Shoal would be among the issues he would discuss with his Chinese counterparts. He said he would “ask” the Chinese to “allow” Filipino fishermen back in the shoal.

China has denied Filipino fishermen access to the shoal’s rich fishing ground.

Fishing rights was part of the case filed by the Philippines before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The court denied in July China’s claim over most of the South China Sea and its assertion of a 200-mile exclusive economic zone around Spratly islands, an area that is disputed by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The ruling said Panatag was a common fishing ground and no country had the right to prevent others from fishing in the area.

Duterte said he “would not go out of the four corners” of the Hague decision even when China repeatedly declared that it would not honor whatever ruling the court gives.

A Reuters report said China would consider giving Filipino fishermen “conditional access” to the disputed waters.

It quoted one of two Chinese officials as saying, “everybody can go, but there will be conditions.”

When pressed to specify, the official said: “The two countries would have to form working groups to iron out details.”

The US, along with Japan and other allies, want to ensure that Beijing does not interfere with the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea through which passes $5 trillion worth of trade each year.

A GMA News report also quoted Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhemin as saying that Duterte and China President Xi Jinping agreed on strengthening fishery cooperation.

It said the giant Asian neighbor would support the Philippines in developing aquaculture and fishery products processing as a way of helping deliver a better life for Filipino fishermen.

Multilateral talks

President Duterte plans to set up possible multilateral talks to include the Philippines, Japan and China to find a peaceful resolution on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea during his official visit to Tokyo next week.

After his state visit to Beijing, Duterte said he is considering an option to facilitate the multilateral talks between the Philippines, China and Japan.

“If you are asking me now, since I have to talk to (Prime) Minister (Shinso) Abe, I cannot make any projections of what will happen,” he said upon arrival at the Davao International Airport on Friday evening.

The President cited the outcome of his talks with Chinese government officials, where he agreed to talk about the territorial dispute through bilateral negotiations in a peaceful manner.

“I said, well if that is the thing, that is what is in your mind because that is also my stand, we will find the day to talk about it, only on the issue of the South China Sea and no topic at all,” he said.

“It could be bilateral, it depends on the development, it could be multilateral and that would include Japan. Those are what I suggested, (and possibly work on it) in the future,” Duterte said.

Just like the position he put forward in Beijing, Duterte said he would encourage Japan to work for the peaceful resolution of the disputes.

“And that would be, maybe they also, the meat of what I would tell your Minister that we can only agree to talk peacefully, resolve the dispute and maybe come up with something that is good for everybody, just maybe,” he said, responding to a query by a Japanese reporter.

During his three-day visit to Japan on Oct. 25 to 27, Duterte will have a meeting with Abe and other top officials of the Japanese government. 

He will also have a state call with Emperor Akihito, following his conference with business leaders and a meeting with the Filipino community there.

“Maybe go to the Diet (Japanese parliament) to just see it for myself. I have looked at the place from the outside and I was not really able to go in,” he said.

During his Japan visit, Duterte said he would focus on economic cooperation and shared interest. 

Since the South China Sea issue is also a major concern between the two countries, Duterte said he will wait for the official statement from Abe.

“I have to wait until I meet Minister Abe of what we would really be talking about. But the South China Sea has been the contention with several other countries vis-a-vis China,” he said.

Duterte said he would reiterate what he had discussed with China, that he cannot give up that part of the Philippines to any other claimant-country. 

If there is one thing he is sure about, Duterte said he wants to settle the disputes in a peaceful manner.

“I told everybody and I told China, I cannot surrender anything there,” the President said.

“We can only talk and we hope that your country will not, you know, do something foolish to start a violent war there or incident. And I said no and we cannot talk about it because I cannot give, or promise anything which I cannot do under the laws of my land, particularly the Constitution,” Duterte added.

“With security and stability recognized as necessary conditions for growth, the Philippines and China affirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, freedom of navigation and over flight in the South China Sea,” the President said.

“We acknowledged the need to address disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law,” he said.

Both countries will also continue discussions on confidence-building measures, including a bilateral consultation mechanism to discuss immediate issues of concern in the South China Sea. 

To maintain stability, Duterte also mentioned that they concluded an agreement between the two countries’ coast guards for general cooperation to minimize incidents at sea. With Christina Mendez

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