by Elena L. Aben
A Malacañang official said that there are no longer Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels in Scarborough Shoal and that Filipino fishermen are now able to freely access the area.
“Regarding fishing in Scarborough Shoal, for the past three days it has been observed that there are no longer any Chinese Coast Guard vessels and that Filipino fishing boats are no longer being intercepted and that they are now able to fish in the area without being intercepted,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing yesterday.
This development comes one week after President Duterte’s state visit to China.
Upon his return to the country, Duterte announced that Filipino fishermen may be able to return to the Chinese-held Scarborough Shoal after he discussed the territorial rift with Chinese leaders.
On the other hand, Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque, who was part the President’s delegation to China, claimed that the two governments have reached a “modus vivendi” to allow Filipino fishermen to return to the Shoal.
But Abella, when asked if there was already an agreement reached on the issue during the President’s China trip, said that “nothing has been official regarding the matter.”
“There’s nothing official regarding that matter. But all we know is based on results fishermen can now go into those waters,” he added.
The President, in a speech before victims of super typhoon Lawin in Isabela last Sunday, said he insisted to China during his state visit that the Philippines owns the Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
Duterte said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting that he cannot surrender anything in the country’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), citing the July 12 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
And while the Chinese leader also insisted his country’s historical rights in the South China Sea, Duterte said they have agreed to resolve the case peacefully, although it will take time.
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