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DFA verifying reports of China’s harassment on Pinoy fishermen

By Joyce Annn Rocamora and Gerry Baldo

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday announced that they are now verifying the reports of alleged Chinese Coast Guard harassment on Filipino fishermen in the disputed area in South China Sea.
DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar told reporters that the agency is now coordinating with concerned security agencies to confirm the veracity of the information.
In a State of the Nation report, Chinese Coast Guard allegedly chased away Bataan fishermen by firing a number of warning shots near Union Banks off coast Palawan.
Situated just 180 nautical miles from Palawan, international law says that the region is within the country’s 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
Aired mid-week, the report quoted the locals who witnessed the incident. Speedboat from the Chinese Coast Guard allegedly fired at least six warning shots in an upward direction, driving the local folks away from the setting.
The fishermen believed that the move was intended to secure maritime construction site in the area they claim “bigger than the size of an average mall.”
On the government’s side, Bolivar assured that “with the current positive momentum in Philippine-China relations, we have mechanisms in place where the Philippines can raise such issues.”
“This includes the bilateral consultation mechanism, which is meant to tackle issues of concern in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
The said consultations will kick-off by May this year as per the invitation of China.
Meanwhile, as number of reported activities within our territorial waters increases, Philippine-based think tank, Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi) said the country as this year’s chairman to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) needs to cooperate on establishing agenda focused on maritime rows.
The Asean is composed of 10 Southeast Asian countries include several claimant states with overlapping claims on the strategic waterway with Beijing.
“No stranger to the difficulties in the South China Sea, the Philippines is seeing new evolutions to its trials: first, in the form of Chinese vessels loitering in Benham Rise and, second, in the prospect of Chinese construction on Scarborough Shoal,” said Dindo Manhit, president of the Stratbase ADRi.
In light of these events, he encouraged the administration to continue taking pains “to uphold its sovereign rights and defend its national interests against unlawful or unilateral action.”
To do so, he stressed that we need to highlight the issue of territorial rows as we spearhead the bloc’s summits and related meetings this year.
The DFA has repeatedly assured that this ruling will surface “on a proper time” but our nearest engagement with China on the matter, which is in May, the Philippines is set to shelve the subject first.
Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the political opposition in the Lower House yesterday urged the Duterte government to assert the country’s rights over its territorial waters.
According to Rep. Gary Alejano of the Magdalo partylist, the government should protect and defend the country’s territory.
“This act constitute a violation to our sovereignty and territorial integrity that we must all protect and defend,” Alejano said, referring to latest allegations of China’s harassment on Pinoy fishermen..
Alejano, a former Marines officer, stressed that the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard — firing shots at Filipino fishermen of Union Bank in the Spratlys which is well within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone — constitutes aggression.
The Spratlys is composed of more than 750 reefs and islands in the West Philippine Sea. It is being  has claimed by the Philippines and four other countries, including Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and China.
President Duterte has been reluctant to assert the country’s rights over the islands due to his friendship with the Chinese government.
Duterte has recently canceled his visit and flag-raising ceremony at Spratly Islands and backtracked on an order for the military to occupy these islands.
In July 2016, The Hague Tribunal awarded the Philippines sovereignty rights over the Spratly Islands, rejecting China’s claim that it has historic rights to the archipelago.
“Once and for all let us assert our rights by concrete actions on the ground. Otherwise, other countries, particularly China, will continue to abuse and disrespect us as a country,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

1 comment

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    Lavonda Friday, 21 April 2017 07:56 Comment Link

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