The incident at Panatag Shoal
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - June 15, 2018 - 12:00am

I could only shake my head after watching the press conference of Roque with three fishermen who were apparently harassed in Panatag Shoal. After making a statement that the administration would not take the incident sitting down, the fishermen were allowed to speak. May I add that Roque did mention that what actually happened was a barter, where the best fish taken by the Chinese Coast Guard were exchanged for noodles, cigarettes, and water. The administration apologist took the lead.

But you can see that the fishermen were not happy with the incident. When asked if what transpired was a fair exchange, a fisherman said the value of what they received from the coast guard personnel would amount to a measly P200, while the fish that were taken could have fetched at least P1,000. The fishermen were asked why they did not resist the Chinese Coast Guard.

They responded by saying the coast guard ships were huge and could easily crush them like tin cans. In other words, they were helpless to do anything but allow themselves to be boarded and their catch inspected, and taken. While the fishermen were grateful that they are back in Panatag Shoal, they are calling on the Chinese Coast Guard to just leave them to fish in peace. I was reminded of the barter system that occurred between the early American settlers with the Native Americans, where everyday items were traded for precious metals.

At this point, Roque decided to stop the press conference, saying it was starting to sound like a documentary. And what is the purpose of a documentary if not to expose the truth? Clearly he did not want the fishermen to say anything more that may offend the Chinese, or show how bad it really was at Scarborough Shoal.

On another note, I did not appreciate the statement of the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry that Filipino fishermen were allowed to fish at Scarborough Shoal “out of goodwill.” As confirmed by the fishermen, the Chinese are in full control of the shoal. This statement makes the country indebted to China for allowing our fishermen back at Scarborough. But the shoal is within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, which gives the country the right to benefit from its resources.

The shoal is also not owned by anyone, so fishermen from any nation may fish, without having to ask permission, much less some country allowing them “out of goodwill.” But the Duterte administration and its allies continue to work hard as Chinese apologists, saying that the statement may have been lost in translation. I really do not know how a statement like that can be lost in translation.

The Chinese ambassador has promised to investigate the incident, and those found at fault would be held accountable. Until concrete action is taken by the Chinese authorities, the fishermen may have to deal with being boarded, given noodles, cigarettes, and water for their best catch. Perhaps they should just put up a Chinese convenience store.

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