Palace: Harassment of Filipino fishermen not China's official policy

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Palace: Harassment of Filipino fishermen not China's official policy
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Chinese coast guard personnel have been taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

MANILA, Philippines — Taking away the catch of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea is not China's official policy, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the Chinese coast guard have been harassing local fishermen at the traditional fishing ground in the disputed waters.

"Totoo po na nagkaroon ng insidente kung saan kinuhanan ang mga mangingisda sa Scarborough pero ayon sa kanila merong binibigay na kapalit (It is true that there was an incident where the catch of fishermen in Scarbarough were taken away but they were given something in return)," Roque said in a press briefing.

Roque said that the Chinese gave noodles and cigarettes to Filipino fishermen in exchange of their catch.

Following the confirmation of the incident as reported by GMA News last week, Roque said that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano already talked to Chinese Amabassador Zhao Jianhua to discuss the issue.

The Malacañang spokesman added that he also talked to the Chinese envoy about the harassment incident, wherein Zhao said that Beijing is looking into the report.

"In-assure naman po ako ng ambassador na hindi po ito polisiya ng Tsina, na nag-iimbestiga ang Beijing at kung mapatunayan ang sinabi ng mga mangingisda ay mayroong kaparusahan na ipapatol dito sa mga Chinese coast guard na ito (The ambassador assured me that this is not a policy of China, that Beijing is looking into it and if proven that the statements of the fishermen are true there will be punishment for these Chinese coast guard personnel)," Roque said.

Roque pointed out that Filipino fishermen regained access to Scarborough Shoal in 2017 following the Duterte administration' new policy toward China.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping both agreed that fishermen can fish again in the Scarborough Shoal.

However, the Chinese taking away the Filipino's catch in the fishing ground is not part of that agreement, Roque added.

"Ito ang dahilan kung bakit nagrereklamo sila ngayon sa gobyerno at humihingi ng tulong para maitigil na itong mga pangyayaring ito at gumawa na po ng hakbang ang gobyerno (This is the reason why the fishermen are complaining and asking the government for help to put an end to this and for the government to take action)," he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had assured the public that the government is taking "all diplomatic action" to address the matter.

“You should look at the results, not the steps. Why do you do protest? Why do you do diplomatic action? Because you want a result. This administration is focusing on the results,” Cayetano said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China sparked in 2012 when the Philippine Navy caught Chinese fishing boats poaching in Philippine waters. China has been claiming indisputable sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, or what they call "Huangyan Dao."

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