President Duterte said that Chinese Coast Guard personnel taking of some of Filipino fishermen's catch on Scarborough Shoal was not an "outright seizure."
The STAR/Val Rodriguez, File photo
Chinese took Filipino fishers' catch as 'barter exchange,' Duterte explains
Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - June 18, 2018 - 9:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday played down confirmed reports that personnel of China's coast guard took the prize catch of Filipinos fishing in Scarborough Shoal, saying what happened was similar to a "barter exchange."

Speaking during the anniversary celebration of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the president said that exchanges of products were normal at sea.

He said that the problem in such exchanges was in the valuation of the products, which led Filipinos to think that they were on the losing side of the transaction.

"It was a barter in exchange for the fish. The problem was with the valuation," the president said.

"It was not an outright seizure," he added.

Some fishermen from the region earlier presented in a  Palace press briefing urged the government to do something about the unfair exchanges that were happening.

In a news report two weeks ago, China's coast guard was seen taking some of the catch of Filipinos on Scarborough Shoal, showing that local fishermen were at the mercy of Beijing in waters ruled to be a traditional fishing ground for all.

Vice President Leni Robredo and opposition politicians have urged the president to protest the incident, but the Palace said that it would do so only if the veracity of incident had been proven. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has confirmed that personnel of the Chinese coast guard took fish from Filipino fishers, but highlighted that they were given noodles and bottled water in return. 

China has also vowed to probe the incident.

Duterte: Philippines cannot go to war with China

Duterte said that the Philippines could not go to war with China over the disputed territory as the economic powerhouse was "no pushover."

"You cannot scare him, and even the United States has shown a little bit of apprehension about how they can...There’s always a parity now of arms and that. You know that if you... against China, Russia will join the fray," he said, warning that the nuclear weapons of these three nations are enough to destroy the world.

Critics of the Duterte administration's policy in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims, have repeatedly said that it is misleading to say that opposing China's aggressiveness in the area can only be done through war. 

He also stressed his earlier pronouncement that he is not abandoning the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated much of China's claim to the waters.

He said that he would raise it with China's leader in due time.

He also countered critics who blasted him for the government's soft stance amid China's growing assertiveness in the region.

This followed reports that China had installed missile systems on its outposts in the disputed seas and landed a bomber capable of carrying nuclear-tipped weapons on one of the islands it controls.

"If I threaten them or file a thousand protests, which we did. It's just that we did not publish our protests. We protested, actually," he said.

"I am not prepared to sacrifice not only the soldier or the policemen, the lives of the Filipinos," Duterte said.

SOUTH CHINA SEA CONFLICT SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE
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