Palace hit for downplaying Chinese 'harassment' of Filipino fishermen

Palace hit for downplaying Chinese 'harassment' of Filipino fishermen
China's coast guard was reportedly seen taking the prize catch of Filipinos fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
The STAR / Val Rodriguez, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition senatorial candidate Gary Alejano called out the Duterte administration for downplaying reports that Filipino fishermen have been experiencing harassment from the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government would certainly protest Beijing's actions on Philippine waters but such allegations would have to be proven first.

This statement comes as a video documentary, where fishermen from Zambales narrate how Chinese coast guard personnel harass them, circulate online. The camp of senatorial bet Neri Colmenares released the video over the weekend.

Alejano, a former marine officer, noted how the administration prioritizes relations with China to the detriment of Filipino fishermen.

"This is a manifestation of the administration’s lack of will to champion our national interests and territorial integrity," Alejano said in a statement released Wednesday.

Alejano accused the government of turning deaf ears on the complaints of Filipino fishermen. He also noted that the government had been repeatedly denying reports that China has been encroaching on Philippine waters.

"Clearly, this government has failed to deliver justice for every Filipino. Ang mga Pilipinong dapat pinagsisilbihan ng ating gobyerno ang nadedehado (The Filipino people whom the government should be serving are at a disadvantage)," Alejano said.

The Magdalo Party-list lawmaker stressed that the country's maritime strategy should also include the West Philippine Sea "to guide and protect our fisherfolks and troops in times of conflict."

"Additionally, I fully support the ICC case filed by former government officials and Filipino fishermen in their pursuit of justice. In times of incapacity of our government, we have to stand for our country and for the future generations," he added.

The military, on the other hand, disputed the claims of Filipino fishers that they are being harassed by Chinese nationals in Scarborough Shoal.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) said it has not received reports of Filipino fishermen being harassed by the Chinese.

There have also been no sightings of Chinese water cannons nor dredging ships in the waters of Scarborough Shoal, which is also called Bajo de Masinloc, according to Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat.

"We have regular Navy and Coast Guard Maritime patrols in the northern maritime borders covered by our (area of responsibility) to ensure freedom of navigation in the sea lines of communication," Salamat said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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