June 23, 2018, 6:05 am
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Robredo: China’s ‘goodwill’ statement an insult to Filipinos

VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday said it was “a big insult” and a “slap on the face” of Filipinos when China said it is allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag Shoal “out of goodwill.”

She asked why Filipino fishermen would need to secure permission to fish in Philippine seas.

In a statement last Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said China has made arrangements for the Philippine fishermen to fish in the disputed waters “out of goodwill.” 

The Embassy issued this statement in reaction to a media network video showing some Chinese Coast Guard personnel taking the catch of some Filipino fishermen at the Panatag Shoal.

China obtained control of the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, after a stand-off with the Philippine Navy in April 2012.

Robredo said such pronouncements from China make it appear that Filipinos have to ask for permission to fish in the country’s waters, which is insulting.

She noted that while the Philippines need not put up a fight against China, it should still come up with a stronger stance amid allegations Chinese harassment. 

Robredo said the Philippine government is “too soft” in dealing with China’s incursions of the Philippines’ waters.

Robredo suggested tighter security patrol in the area by increasing the presence of Philippine Coast Guard and the military personnel.

A Filipino fisherman presented to media in Malacañang on Monday said China appears to be in control of the Scarborough Shoal because it has vessels patrolling the area. 

According to fisherman Rommel Cejuela from Masinloc in Zambales, the Chinese vessels also decide which fishing boats could enter the area.

The Armed Forces is set to hold a dialogue today with fishermen from Zambales.

“We have to get their sentiments, air their concerns for us to assist them in bring issues to concerned agencies,” said AFP Northern Luzon Command spokesman Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said.

“We also have to raise their maritime awareness,” added Nato on the purpose of the dialogue which will be held in Iba town, which is about 124 nautical miles from the shoal.

Told that the fishermen have already declared they want security from Chinese harassment, Nato said: “The revelations made through interviews may not be comparable with directly engaging the people and the community.”

Chinese Coast Guard personnel have harassed Filipino fishermen at the shoal twice last month - one on May 20 and the other on May 28. Philippine authorities are conducting investigation on the incidents.

Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said the Chinese government is also investigating the matter, adding the personnel will be punished if they committed a wrongdoing. – With Victor Reyes
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