Beijing must discipline its coast guard
(The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua discussed China Coast Guard’s abuses at Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on June 12 as the nation celebrated Independence Day.

Ironically, Zhao’s presence at the celebration of the 120th anniversary of Philippine independence raised eyebrows and drew disapproving comments on social media, although he was just one of the foreign diplomats invited to the event. The controversy that Chinese coast guards are confiscating the catch of Filipino fishermen at Panatag Shoal, a rich fishing ground located 230 km from the coast of Zambales province, well within the Philippines’ 370 km exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea is allegedly a controlled area of China. He even contends that Chinese coast guards were not harassing Filipino fishermen and not confiscating their catch. “It is some sort of barter trade, which has been going on for quite some time,” Zhao said, adding Chinese coast guards exchanged food and water for the Filipinos’ fish.

The Independence Day this week has been the subject whether we really are free or not as a state away from external threats. The issue in SCS/WPS has been the ideal subject in social media abuzzing with pictures of Zhao talking with Pres. Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, with the caption for one photo noting the “irony” of celebrating freedom in Chinese shackles. The funny thing about the commenters is that they hype the following statements: “Governor of the Philippines speaking with representatives of President Xi,” a commenter said on Twitter. 

Meanwhile, I believe the Philippines had brought up the matter with China and demanded Beijing to stop the unacceptable practice. On the allegation that China still controlled Panatag Shoal, we do not follow through that claim from outsiders. We still have it. 

Eventually, we can see that China needs to take note of the complaint, and continue investigation on the issue of harassment. Beijing MUST DISCIPLINE coast guards who would be proven to have taken fish from Filipinos at Panatag Shoal.  – Jumel G. Estrañero, defense research analyst and college faculty

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