Palace: DFA’s call to protest harassment of PH fishers
Malacañang is leaving it to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to decide whether to lodge a diplomatic protest to stop Chinese vessels from driving away Filipinos from fishing grounds close to Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the South China Sea.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday said the government had not verified the report of Kalayaan town Mayor Roberto del Mundo that the Chinese were denying Filipino fishermen access to three sandbars near Pag-asa.
The three sandbars are located between Pag-asa and Philippine-claimed but China-controlled Zamora Reef, known by its international name Subi.
“I will need to verify that from the secretary of national defense (Delfin Lorenzana),” Panelo said.
Asked if Malacañang would file a protest if Del Mundo’s report was proved to be true, he said: “I will leave it to the secretary of foreign affairs (Teodoro Locsin Jr.). That’s his turf.”
But Panelo said it was “certainly not correct” to drive away Filipino fishermen from sandbars close to Pag-asa.
“[T]hat is our area. We, from the very start, said that’s ours. And our fishermen have been doing that, our fishermen have been fishing there,” he said.
“[N]obody has the right to drive our fishermen away. But we need to validate,” he added
Del Mundo last week said that Chinese fishing vessels were preventing Filipinos from fishing off three sandbars close to Pag-asa.
He said the Chinese vessels’ actions adversely affected the activities of Filipinos who used to fish near the sandbars.
“The presence of Chinese boats is now affecting our fishing activities. It wasn’t that way before. When our fishermen are about to get near Sandbar 3—that is really our fishing ground—a Chinese vessel would immediately come up to us to ward us off so we can’t come closer,” Del Mundo said last week.
Asked if Malacañang considered the Chinese action as a cause for concern, Panelo said: “If the secretary of national defense says it should be a cause of concern, then it is a cause of concern. I haven’t heard him say that.” —WITH A REPORT FROM FRANCES MANGOSING
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