By Genalyn Kabiling
China has assured the Philippines it has no policy of harassing Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal and has started an investigation into the incident involving some Coast Guard personnel.
The assurance was relayed by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque amid reports some Chinese Coast Guard personnel have taken away the prime catch of Filipino fishermen sailing at Panatag.
Roque has raised the Scarborough incident to the Chinese envoy and pressed the need for Beijing to discipline some erring coast guard personnel.
“In-assure naman po ako ng Ambassador din na hindi po ito polisiya ng Tsina, na nag-iimbestiga ang Beijing [I was assured by the Ambassador that this is not the policy of China. Beijing has started an investigation]” Roque said in Filipino during a Palace press briefing.
“At kung mapapatunayan ang mga sinabi ng mga mangingisda, mayroong kaparusahan na ipapataw dito sa mga Chinese Coast Guard na ito [And if the allegations of the fisherman are proven, there will be penalties that will be imposed on the Chinese Coast Guard,” said Roque, who brought along three fishermen from Mansinloc, Zambales who complained about the Chinese coast guard’s action to his Monday press conference.
Roque admitted that he does not consider the incident involving the Chinese Coast Guard as harassment but found the situation unacceptable.
He said the government would not take the matter sitting down, and pledged to take steps to protect the interest of local fishermen and prevent the incident from happening again. Not a single kilo of fish should be taken away from Filipino fishermen who are just making a living, according to Roque.
Roque also said China must discipline some of its erring Coast Guard personnel involved in the seizure of fish catch from Filipinos.
“Kung may bugok na Coast Guard sa Pilipinas, may bugok din ng Coast Guard sa Tsina [If there are bad eggs in the Philippine Coast Guard, there are also rotten Chinese Coast Guard],” he said
“So kinakailangan disiplinahin siguro ng Tsina iyong mga bugok na nangunguha ng isda dahil hindi po katanggap-tanggap talaga iyan [So China must discipline those rotten personnel seizing the catch of our fishermen because that is unacceptable],” he added.
Roque stressed that that the two countries have previously agreed to let the Filipinos fish freely in Panatag Shoal.
He noted that allowing fishermen in Scarborough was not only included in the arbitration ruling by an international court but also part of the agreement between President Duterte and President Xi Jinping. This was in contrast to the situation during the Aquino administration when fishermen were prohibited from sailing in Panatag,Roque said.
Taking away the fisherman’s catch by the Chinese Coast Guard however was not part of the agreement. Roque noted that the coast guard reportedly offered noodles, cigarettes and water in exchange of a portion of their catch.
“Hindi nagkakaroon ng kasunduan kung gaanong karaming isda ang kukunin sa kanila at ito ang dahilan kung bakit nagrereklamo sila ngayon sa gobyerno at humihingi ng tulong na para maitigil na itong mga pangyayaring ito [There was no agreement on how much fish they will get from the fishermen and this is the reason why they are complaining and asking the government for assistance to stop this incident],” he said.
“They (fishermen) deserve better, that’s why we are taking steps to address the issue with the Chinese. We have addressed this issue to the Chinese and we are demanding that the Chinese take steps to stop the Coast Guard from doing this acts,” he added.