China still controls Scarborough — PH fishermen
China apparently still has control over Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc).
Filipino fishermen claimed on Monday that the Chinese Coast Guard remains in the disputed shoal while some Chinese have allegedly been taking their fish harvest away from them.
“Sa tingin ko ngayon, Tsina pa rin,” Rommel Cejuela, a fisherman from Masinloc, Zambales, said in a Palace briefing on Monday when asked about who controls the shoal.
Cejuela was among the Filipino fishermen whose catch were allegedly taken away by the members of the Chinese Coast Guard last May.
“Totoo po na nagkaroon ng insidente kung saan kinuhanan ng isda ang ating mga mangingisda sa Scarborough,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
However, he said the Chinese usually give the fishermen noodles, cigarettes, and water in exchange for the fish they take.
“Kada kinikuhanan sila ng isda, binibigyan sila ng noodles, ng sigarilyo at pinaka-importante, tubig, dahil palagi silang nagkukulang sa tubig,” he said.
However, Cejuela said these were not enough in exchange for the fish that the Chinese take from them.
Not harassment but unacceptable
Cejuela said the Chinese usually board their boats to get the fish they have harvested.
“Sila na mismo ang aakyat, tapos hahalungkatin iyong lagayan namin ng isda. Ngayon, hindi naman kami magkaintindihan sa pag-uusap. Kumbaga sa ano, nakikisama na lang kami sa kanila kasi baka paalisin na naman kami kapag hindi namin pagbigyan sila na kukuha ng isda,” he said.
In December 2017, Cejuela alleged the Chinese took the fishing gears of the fishermen.
“Iyon nga lang iyong nangyari noong December, iyong inagawan sila ng pana, may dala silang sandata noon, pero hindi naman sila tinutukan,” he said.“Noong patakbo na sana, iyon nga kinalawit iyong damit para hindi makatakbo.”
Meanwhile, Roque refused to label the incident as harrassment.
“I would not say it’s harassment,” he said. “You know what harassment is during the time of President [Benigno] Aquino [III]? Water canons were used against them (fishermen). They were rammed, they were targeted by live guns,” he said.
Even though he refused to call the incident as harassment, Roque said this was “unacceptable.”
“The policy is we have brought this up to the Chinese Ambassador. We have said this is unacceptable. We want the fishermen to fish freely. We don’t want even a single kilo to be exacted from the fishermen,” he said.
“Kung may bugok na Coast Guard sa Pilipinas, may bugok din na Coast Guard sa Tsina. So kinakailangan disiplinahin ng Tsina iyong mga bugok na nangunguha ng isda dahil hindi po katanggap-tanggap talaga iyan,” he added.
The Palace official said the government would not take the incident for granted.
“The DFA has communicated with the Chinese Ambassador. We are not taking this sitting down,” he said.
He said the fishermen involved in the incident have given their written statement to the government.
China to investigate incident
Meanwhile, Roque confirmed that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has already talked with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua about the incident.
Roque said the Chinese ambassador has assured the government that they would investigate the incident.
“In-assure naman po ako ng Ambassador din na hindi po ito polisiya ng Tsina, na nag-iimbestiga ang Beijing at kung mapapatunayan ang mga sinabi ng mga mangingisda eh mayroong kaparusahan na ipapataw dito sa mga Chinese Coast Guard na ito,” he said.
On the positive side, Roque cited that unlike during the previous administration, Filipino fishermen are now allowed to fish at Scarborough
President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier agreed to allow Filipino fishermen at the disputed shoal as the administration warms its strained ties with Beijing.
Roque said, “Napakadami na ulit na mangingisda doon na mga Pilipino.”
PH Coast Guard not patrolling
However, fisherman Rommel Sejuela said they have not seen Philippine Coast Guard vessels patrolling at Scarborough.
“Wala po, walang Philippine Coast Guard na nakakapunta ngayon diyan,” he said.
But he said they prefer this to avoid a standoff between members Philippine and Chinese coast guards.
“Mas lalong delikado nga siguro sa amin,” he said.
The Scarborough shoal located west of Zambales has been a traditional Filipino fishing ground within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone but China seized it after a two-month standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012. /vvp
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