Secretary Harry Roque with three of the fishermen who had encounters with the Chinese coast guard
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang called the incidents in Scarborough Shoal between Filipino fishermen and some Chinese coast guard, not a barter trade but a form of “fish thievery.”
Filipino fishermen reported that some members of the Chinese Coast Guard have been taking the best of their catch in exchange for noodles and drinking water.
“So for lack of a better word, let’s call it ‘pangongotong’ in Tagalog, which is fish thievery. I have never really addressed it as a barter,” said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque.
Malacañang in previous interviews said the incident has already been reported to China, and which the latter assured is being investigated.
For the local government of Masinloc, Zambales, fishermen seem to pay China a toll-fee for fishing in Panatag Shoal which belongs to the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
“Iyon nga parang may toll-fee sa gitna ng karagatan. Ang mga Masinlokenyos po ay mga mababait na tao iyan. Ayaw po nila ng gulo. Ayaw nila makiaway kaya okay na lang na magbigay sila kaysa bawalan po sila,” said Mayor Arsenia Lim of Masinloc, Zambales.
Following the incident, the local government of Masinloc is appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to make sure Filipino fishermen can still fish freely and safely in Panatag Shoal.
Meanwhile, Malacañang stands firm that the Philippines has the sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal and that the territory is not owned by China.
This is in reaction to the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that they let Filipino fishermen fish in the area out of goodwill.
Asked if the Philippines concede fishing rights in Scarborough shoal, Roque firmly said, “We do not concede.” – Rosalie Coz / Marje Pelayo