Coast Guard says it's best to move forward from 'isolated cases' of Chinese harassment in West Philippine Sea
China Coast Guard Director General, Major General Wang Zhongcai, formally welcomed the Philippine Coast Guard led by Admiral Joel S Garcia to CCG Vessel 5204 in a cross-deck visit Tuesday morning.

Coast Guard says it's best to move forward from 'isolated cases' of Chinese harassment in West Philippine Sea

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - January 14, 2020 - 3:52pm

MANILA, Philippines — For the Philippine Coast Guard, sitting down with its Chinese counterpart is the best solution to resolve the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

The PCG has welcomed China Coast Guard Vessel 5204 Tuesday morning and will hold a bilateral meeting to discuss issues such as hotlines of communication, search and rescue operation, as well as the possibility of joint maritime exercise.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio earlier criticized the PCG's move of welcoming the CCG to the country following past reports that the latter has been harassing Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

"When your neighbor has seized your backyard and you still invite your neighbor to your dining room to have dinner, you're condoning it," Carpio said in an interview with Chiara Zambrano of ABS-CBN News.

PCG commandant Adm. Joel Garcia, however, said the Philippine government will not close its doors despite previous encounters with the Chinese side.

"Pilipino lang po tayo. Alam naman natin na mauunawaan ng taumbayan na kahit na alam natin na kung mananatili 'yung sama ng loob ng dalawang tao, hindi nag-uusap, tuluyan na magkaaway hindi po maganda sa pamilya," Garcia told reporters.

(We are just Filipinos. We know that the people will understand that if hard feelings will remain between two people without talking, the conflict will go on. It is not good for the family.)

Garcia added that if the Philippines will just dwell on the past incidences of CCG harassing Filipino fishermen, the government should just stop talking with the Chinese.

"We should not commit ourselves to that isolated cases. We have to discuss these things through this bilateral meeting then move forward," the PCG chief said.

Asked if the PCG is setting aside the Philippines' legal victory on the South China Sea arbitration, Garcia clarified that the coast guard is not the proper government agency to determine the country's sovereignty.

He stressed that the PCG is only in charge of maritime law enforcement and maritime governance.

Garcia said their Chinese counterparts are open to talk about securing the safety of fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

"Sa tingin ko po bukal naman sa kanilang kaisipan 'yung ating panukala da napat pag-usapan once and for all 'yung kaligtasan at seguridad ng ating mga mangingisda dito po sa West Philippine Sea," he said.

(I think they will be open to our suggestion to talk about the safety and security of our fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.)

In a report to the US Congress in March 2019, US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Philip Davidson said Filipino fishermen in the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal are regularly harassed and intimidated.

Davidson reported to the US Congress that Chinese coast guard vessels under the command of the Central Military Commission "regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from our treaty ally, the Philippines, operating near Scarborough Reef, as well as the fishing fleets of other regional nations."

In September 2019, the Department of National Defense also submitted a report to the House of Representatives that CCG ships have been regularly monitoring the activities of at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The DND cited an incidence wherein a CCG ship blocked the route of three Philippine civilian vessels on a resupply mission to the Navy's BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal.

"Notably, China regularly deploys at least one CCG vessel perceived to be monitoring the activities there at, including the arrival of Filipino fishing boats as well as the Rotation and Reprovision mission of the [Philippine Navy]," the DND report read.

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