MANILA — Following reports that the Chinese Coast Guard have been filching the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Monday night said their government is now investigating the issue.
At a press briefing in Beijing, Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese MFA also claimed that the Chinese Coast Guard “have always acted in accordance with the law.”
“The Chinese Coast Guard have been safeguarding peace, order, and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aids to Philippine fishermen for many times,” he said.
“As to whether the situation mentioned by the media exists or not, the Chinese side is now conducting an investigation seriously. If what the Philippine side claimed is true, I believe relevant Chinese departments will handle that in a serious manner,” he added.
Geng underscored that China has made “appropriate arrangement” for the Filipino fishermen to fish within Bajo de Masinloc “out of goodwill.”
“This policy remains unchanged. 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 stressed.
Both Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs said they expect the Chinese side to discipline their fishermen and coast guards, in the same manner the Philippines does.
The three fishermen who complained against the Chinese Coast Guard filching their catch last May were presented to the media in Malacañang during a press briefing on Monday.
In the same briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque described the incident near Scarborough Shoal as “fish thievery”.
Bajo de Masinloc is 124 nautical miles from the coast of Zambales province and is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
China seized Bajo de Masinloc in 2012 following a two-month standoff after the Philippine government sent its biggest warship to chase off Chinese vessels suspected of poaching in the area.
In the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, The Hague declared China’s failure to exhibit due regard for the country’s sovereign rights with respect to fisheries in its EEZ. China, however, refused to recognize the decision it earlier dismissed “farcical”.
Roque, in his June 11 press briefing, acknowledged there are Chinese in the area but emphasized Filipino fishermen are now able to fish. Putting blame on the previous administration, Roque said it was during President Benigno Aquino III’s time that the country lost complete control over the Scarborough Shoal. Joyce Ann Rocamora/PNA-northboundasia.com