By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday found “insulting” to all Filipinos the claim of China it has allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippines Sea “out of goodwill.”
Speaking to reporters, Robredo did not mince words against China over the remarks of its embassy in Manila about the incident at the Panatag Shoal involving the Filipino fishermen and Chinese Coast Guard.
“Malaking sampal iyon sa atin. Malaking insulto, kasi bakit ka kailangang manghingi ng permiso sa pangingisda sa sarili mong… sa pag-aari ng ating bayan,” she said on the sidelines of her Metro Laylayan visit to Sto. Nino, Tanay in Rizal.
(That’s a big slap to us. It’s a big insult because why do we have to seek permission in your own [territory]…that belongs to our country.)
Robredo, a lawyer, asserted again the country’s rights in line with the 2016 Hague ruling that upheld the exclusive rights of the Philippines over the resources within the West Philippine Sea.
“Sinabi sa ruling ng Arbitration Tribunal na iyong pinapangisdaan nila nasa exclusive economic zone natin, na iyong ating mga mangingisda iyong may exclusive na right para mangisda doon. Bakit natin kailangan iyong permiso ng China?” she said.
(The ruling of the Arbitration Tribunal stated the fishing ground is within our exclusive economic zone, that our fishermen have the exclusive rights to fish there. Why do we need permission from China?)
The Vice President reacted to China’s statement a day after Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua attended the Independence Day rites last Tuesday with President Rodrigo Duterte in Kawit, Cavite.
Robredo, who had repeatedly urged the government to file a diplomatic protest against China, said the soft approach on the West Philippine Sea issue is not working.
“Masyado tayong malambot sa pag-deal ng mga incursions sa ating… hindi lang sa territory pero pati sa sovereignty,” the lady official said.
(We are too soft in dealing with the incursions to our…not only in our territory, but also our sovereignty.)
“Kung nagfa-file tayo ng mga formal protests, kailangan strongest terms para marinig,” she added.
(If we are going to file formal protests, these must be in strongest terms so we will be heard.)
While she is pushing the government to fight for Filipinos’ rights, Robredo said this does not mean she is advocating for a war with China.
“Hindi naman tayo nakikipag-away, pero kailangan nating ipaglaban kung ano iyong atin. Parati kong sinasabi ito: Iyong atin, atin iyon,” she said.
“We are not making them enemies, but we need to fight for what is ours. I always say this: What’s ours is ours.)
“Ang pinapakita lang natin, pinapakipaglaban natin iyong ating mga karapatan. At kapag pinaglaban natin iyong ating mga karapatan, mas makakakuha tayo ng tulong sa ibang mga bansa,” Robredo added.
(What we are only showing is that we are fighting for our rights. And if we fight for our rights, the more we can get support from other countries.)