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China defends coast guards’ action in Panatag Shoal

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
China defends coast guards� action in Panatag Shoal
“The Chinese coast guards have been safeguarding peace, order and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aid to Philippine fishermen for many times,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press conference in Beijing on Monday. He said China is allowing Filipinos to fish in the area “out of goodwill.”
AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — China has defended its coast guards from accusations they had seized catch from Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, saying they had always acted “in accordance with the law.”

But the Chinese foreign ministry said it is “seriously” investigating the report.

“The Chinese coast guards have been safeguarding peace, order and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aid to Philippine fishermen for many times,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press conference in Beijing on Monday. He said China is allowing Filipinos to fish in the area “out of goodwill.”

“As to whether the situation mentioned by the media exists or not, the Chinese side is now conducting an investigation seriously,” Geng said. “If what the Philippine side claimed is true, I believe relevant Chinese departments will handle that in a serious manner.”

He stressed that Philippines-China relations remain strong and that Beijing is committed to consolidating and further strengthening such relations.

In a press briefing at Malacañang organized by presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Filipino fishermen claimed the Chinese were in control of Panatag Shoal and that they were confiscating their best catch.

The fishermen said Chinese coast guard personnel would give them noodles, cigarettes and water in exchange for their catch, but these were not enough to feed the families of fishermen.

Contrary to the fishermen’s claims, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines was gaining headway in its dealing with China on Panatag Shoal.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua downplayed yesterday the landing of a Chinese military aircraft at the Davao City International Airport last week, saying it should not be seen as a military threat.

In a chance interview at the Independence Day celebration in Kawit, Cavite, Zhao assured the public that the Chinese aircraft followed proper protocols when it stopped by Davao briefly to refuel.

“Well it’s your protocols we have followed. Now we have applied through your agencies, through your militaries, DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) for the landing. The landing is very simple, it’s for refueling,” Zhao said.

He described as “nonsense” insinuations the flight was a provocation from China, which is claiming almost the entire South China Sea.

“Please allow me to be blunt, it’s nonsense. We have never thought of going to war with our good neighbor, our good friend that is the Philippines,” Zhao said.

He explained that the plane was on its way to New Zealand for bilateral exercises.

“But I’m really puzzled and even surprised that some of the people here (are) taking the landing of Chinese military jets as a kind of military threat to the Philippines,” he said.

“And even they indicated that this might be the beginning of our invasion,” Zhao lamented.

Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, Manila has been in good relations with Beijing.

Zhao said the Chinese plane could have not landed without clearance from proper authorities.

“You have your protocols, which allows foreign airplanes to house over your territorial or water or fly over your airspace but all foreign jets, including civilian or military, they should follow your protocols and procedures,” he said.

“If you do not allow the Chinese there to land or fly over your airspace, we are not there to do that because you might shoot them down,” Zhao said.

Photos of the military transport plane, identified as an IL-76, circulated in social media the other day. The IL-76 is designed to conduct tactical and strategic airlift missions, transport of troops and evacuation. – With Christina Mendez

Related video:

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CHINESE COAST GUARD

PANATAG SHOAL

SCARBOROUGH SHOAL

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