Chinese Embassy investigating alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen
The Chinese Embassy said an investigation is being conducted on the alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen under the hands of the Chinese Coast Guard in the disputed areas of the West Philippine sea (WPS).
“As to whether the situation mentioned by the media exists or not, the Chinese side is now conducting an investigation seriously,” Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua said in a statement on Tuesday.
“If what the Philippine side claimed is true, I believe relevant Chinese departments will handle that in a serious manner,” he added.
Filipino fishermen claimed in a television network’s documentary program that members of the Chinese Coast Guard have continuously asked them for fish, giving the impression that Filipinos cannot navigate and fish freely on the Scarborough shoal.
In a mobile phone footage from the documentary, coast guard officers approached the fishing boat and asked the fishermen, but eventually backed off as there was no catch as of that time.
Several individuals have voiced their frustrations over the said incident. Tirso Atiga, president of the Calapandayan Fishermen Multipurpose Cooperative and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano questioned the Philippine government’s stand on the WPS issues.
“Are we slaves of China? It seems that our government has not acted on [these forms of aggression],” Atiga said in the headline story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday.
“I feel sorry for our fishermen, they cannot rely on their own government,” Alejano said in a press conference on Saturday.
In accordance with law
However, Zhao defended the Chinese coast guards, saying that the authorities have been “safeguarding peace, order, and tranquility” in the contested region. He added that they have even extended humanitarian aid to local fishermen on several instances.
“They (Chinese coast guard) have always acted in accordance with the law,” Zhao said.
The ambassador also said China’s move to allow Filipinos to fish in “relevant waters” has not changed, even amid these complaints.
“China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill. This policy remains unchanged,” Zhao claimed, saying that the Asian superpower is keen on maintaining the positive relations with the Philippines.
“At this point, the China-Philippines friendly relations have taken on a positive trend, and China has a clear and firm determination to commit itself to consolidating and strengthening China-Philippines relations,” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday the government has taken steps to address the issue with their Chinese counterparts.
Roque previously said the video footage was “inconclusive” and that it did not show signs of fishermen being bullied.
However, on Monday, he told reporters, “[Filipino fishermen] deserve better, that’s why we are taking steps to address the issue with the Chinese.”
“We have addressed this issue to the Chinese and we are demanding that the Chinese take steps to stop the Coast Guard from doing these acts,” he said. /vvp
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