China vows ‘serious investigation’ into Chinese seizures of fish catch in Philippine waters

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
China vows âserious investigationâ into Chinese seizures of fish catch in Philippine waters
In this May 18, 2018, file photo, protesters display placards during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest China's deployment of missiles on the Philippine-claimed reefs in South China Sea in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines. Filipino officials say China's coast guard has continued to seize the catches of Filipino fishermen at a disputed shoal.
AP / Bullit Marquez, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — China on Monday said it will “seriously” investigate the reported Chinese confiscations of Filipino fishermen's catch at Panatag (Scarborough) shoal, adding that it has allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in the area “out of goodwill.”

GMA News reported last week that Chinese coast guards have been forcibly taking the best catches of Filipino fishermen at the disputed shoal, which is well within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The shoal is a traditional fishing ground, therefore, China, the Philippines or any other country cannot block access to the area.

In a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said relevant Chinese departments will handle the case “in a serious manner.”

Geng also maintained that Chinese coast guard patrols “have always acted in accordance with the law.”

“China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill. This policy remains unchanged,” he said.

“The Chinese coast guards have been safeguarding peace, order and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aids to Philippine fishermen for many times... As to whether the situation mentioned by the media exists or not, the Chinese side is now conducting an investigation seriously,” he added.

The current administration has been trumpeting supposed better access for Filipino fishermen at Panatag, which was seized by China in 2012.

Ties between China and the Philippines soured after the previous Aquino administration filed a case in 2013 with a United Nations-backed tribunal. The ruling, which favors Manila, was handed down a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

However, China rejected the landmark decision, which Duterte put on the back burner in exchange for warmer ties and Chinese funding for his administration’s ambitious infrastructure program.

Duterte has also been under fire over his apparent refusal to confront China, which recently landed nuclear-capable strategic bombers and installed missile systems on outposts in the contested waters.

Meanwhile, some Filipino officials say the Philippines can file a new case against China’s behaviour in the contested waters.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, China Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Duterte has expressed concern on reported Chinese seizures of fish caught by Filipino fishermen at Panatag.

Zhao also said Chinese Coast Guard personnel involved in taking of the catch of Filipino fishermen will be punished, adding that such actions by coast guards are not allowed. — With Alexis Romero

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