Pangilinan welcomes better PH-China ties over ‘demilitarized’ Panatag
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan welcomed on Wednesday the seeming improvement in the relationship between the Philippines and China, starting with the demilitarization of the disputed Panatag Shoal.
“Even if China won’t leave Panatag Shoal, we are glad about the news that since October 16, our fisher folk have been able to go there without being harassed by Chinese ships,” Pangilinan, a member of the Liberal Party, said in a statement on Wednesday.
While the Filipino fishermen had been allowed to fish in the disputed area, Chinese Coast Guard ships were still reportedly seen guarding the shoal.
“Even if neither parties have dropped their sovereignty claims on the shoals, we are happy that the place has been de-militarized and the relationship between Philippines and China seems better,” the senator said.
Pangilinan though asserted that the Philippines has the exclusive rights to fish in the area, citing the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, the Netherlands decision last July.
Pangilinan said the shoal, which is about 230 kilometers from Zambales, is within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, or 370 kilometers from the shore.
“According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the international arbitral tribunal in July upheld, we have the exclusive rights to fish there,” he said.
“We need to care for the sea’s offerings. We need to care for fishers who risk their lives to earn a living and give us fish, crabs, lobsters, and other sea wealth for our dinner table. This is everyone’s duty, the Chinese’s and the Filipinos,'” the senator added.
Pangilinan also expressed hope that a bill that seeks to establish a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would soon become a reality “so that our treasures from the sea and our fisher folk are cared for.” RAM
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