By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that Philippines filing a new protest or case against China will only reverse the gains that the country got from seeking friendlier relations with the Asian giant.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio urged the government to seek damages from China over the destruction of the reefs in Scarborough Shoal.
Carpio’s statement came after GMA News reported that Chinese fishermen have caused the destruction of coral reefs in the disputed Scarborough Shoal. In the said report, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon confirmed the claims of fishermen that Chinese fishermen were behind the destruction of reefs in the area.
Esperon said that they will relay to China the situation, but reiterated Duterte’s policy of quiet diplomacy in dealing with China.
Roque, in his statement, said that the Philippines and China can rather talk about the issue instead of the Philippines filing another case against the Asian giant which will reverse the diplomatic gains the country obtained.
“Filing a new case against China will reverse our diplomatic gains, not to mention the cost it entails,” Roque warned Wednesday.
“We can, therefore, discuss the issue of destroyed coral reefs in Scarborough Shoal as this forms part of the area of maritime environmental protection instead of filing a new case,” he explained.
Roque also reiterated the administration’s policy about diplomacy and pointed out the Philippines is a witness to how friendly relations can yield positive effects.
“The Administration believes in diplomacy and we are a witness to how our friendly consultation and negotiation with China yielded positive results,” he said.
Roque also said that the Philippines and China have had continuous communication about environmental issues and that both countries remain committed to address such.
“At present, we have an existing bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) with China, which has resulted in productive exchange of views on how to boost cooperation on areas which include maritime environmental protection,” he said.
“We have had continuous discussions on environmental issues with China and both countries are committed to protecting and preserving the environment and to deal strictly with those who do not abide by relevant regulations,” he added.
The report on the destroyed coral reefs in the Scarborough Shoal came a week after GMA News reported about Chinese Coast Guard getting the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed area.
Malacañang said that it has asked China to take steps against its Coast Guard personnel who were caught on video taking the catch of Filipino fishermen.
While Malacañang said that it will not take the issue sitting down and agreed that Chinese Coast Guard should not be taking even a kilogram of fish from Filipino fishermen, the Palace refused to label the act as harassment.
Malacañang instead noted that Filipino fishermen can now access the shoal compared to the situation under the previous administration.
Meanwhile, Roque defended the presence of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua at the 120th Independence Day celebration in Kawit, Cavite Tuesday.
Roque made the statement after Senator Risa Hontiveros assailed the “insensitive” conduct of Zhao during the ceremony amid reports of harassment of Filipino fishermen and the destruction coral reefs in the Scarborough Shoal.
Zhao was seen having a brief talk with Duterte during the event, and also having a brief conversation with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
According to Roque, Zhao was invited to the said event, as were envoys from Japan and Russia.
“Ambassador Zhao was invited. Nothing insensitive there. Diplomats are normally invited to flag raising ceremony during Independence Day,” Roque said.
Zhao standing beside Duterte while the Philippine flag was being raised was also called out by Hontiveros. Roque, explained that it was the President who approached the Chinese ambassador.
“That’s not insensitive. Si Presidente ang lumapit. Nakita ko ‘yun (It was the President who approached him. I saw that),” Roque said in a phone call.