THE Duterte administration should file a strongly-worded diplomatic protest against over its insulting statement that Filipino fishermen were just free to fish in Panatag Shoal (also kown as Scarborough) out of China’s goodwill, Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo said on Wednesday.
Robredo, in a chance interview in a community visit in Tanay, Rizal, was referring to the statement by the Chinese Embassy in Manila, which read “China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill. This policy remains unchanged.”
“I feel that such statement is a big slap to our faces. It is insulting because why do we have to get their permission? Based on the UN ruling, we have traditional fishing rights there. Why do we need China’s permission? Their statement is a slap and insult to all Filipinos,” Robredo said.
Robredo was referring to a UN Tribunal ruling issued in The Hague in 2016, which found China’s denial of access to Panatag Shoal to Filipino fishermen as illegal and determined that it was a traditional fishing ground for the Philippines, China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
“We have been too soft in dealing with Chinese incursions. We should make our voice of protest louder. If we are filing a [diplomatic]protest, it should done in strongest terms so that we will be heard,” Robredo, a lawyer, said.
News footage aired on GMA Network last week showed members of the Chinese Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen at the Panatag Shoal, reducing them to tears.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque tried to downplay the incident by saying that the Chinese Coast Guard gave the Filipino fishermen noodles, water and cigarettes in exchange for the catch.
The fishermen, presented by the Palace in a news briefing, maintained that while they could fish at the Panatag Shoal, it was under the control of China. LLANESCA T. PANTI