THE government cannot take appropriate actions yet against the reported Chinese harassment of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, as it has yet to be proven true, said Malacañang on Monday, March 25.
"Baka 'yung mga video niyo, noon pa 'yan. Ginawan na nga natin ng paraan kaya nga na-stop eh. Hindi siguro recent 'yan (The video might have been previously recorded. We already acted on the harassment, that's why it's been stopped. Perhaps, the reported harassment is nothing new)," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press conference.
"I know it is a recent release but what I'm saying is baka yung video taken prior. Kasi may ginawa tayo diyan eh. Di ba ang daming reklamo noon, gumawa na nga ng diplomatic negotiations diyan. Pumayag na nga sila. Hindi na nga sila pinaaalis eh," he added.
(I know it is a recent release but what I'm saying is perhaps, the video was taken prior. We have already addressed that. Before, there are many complaints, and we held diplomatic negotiations. They agreed. And they're not driving away the Filipino fishermen.)
Panelo issued the statement in response to a short documentary released by senatorial hopeful Neri Colmenares, showing the Chinese Coast Guard's supposed harassment of Filipinos fishing in the waters of Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground located 124 nautical miles from Zambales.
The video clip showed that Filipino fishermen were complaining of low fish catch because personnel of Chinese Coast Guard were allegedly driving them away and sometimes taking their catch.
Panelo said the Duterte administration would only file a diplomatic protest, if the Chinese Coast Guards are proven to be really harassing Filipino fisherfolk from Scarborough Shoal.
"They have to show proof that's being done now again. Because if that is being done, certainly we will protest. We will not allow our countrymen to be subjected to that kind of harassment," he said.
"If there was a negotiation, there was an agreement not to touch them and then one incident, two incidents violate this agreement, then we have to tell them and they will have to correct it," Panelo added.
The Philippines and China, which have overlapping claims to the disputed South China Sea, earlier agreed to let fishermen to freely navigate the contested waters, except for marine protect areas.
However, some Filipino fishermen are complaining about the alleged harassment, amid the agreement.
The Palace official stressed that Filipinos fishing in the Philippine-owned territory should "not be touched or harassed."
"If there is a violation, we have to go back to them (China) and say, 'May violation daw (You allegedly have a violation). You better stop.' The policy is you cannot be harassing our fishermen," Panelo said.
The Philippines on July 12, 2016 won the an arbitration case it lodged against China before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, invalidating Beijing's nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters.
China, however, has continued to ignore the arbitral ruling, still claiming almost 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea.
Panelo acknowledged that while the Philippines was asserting that the South China Sea was "ours," China still has "control" over the disputed waters.
"Certainly, that is ours and the arbitral ruling says it's ours," Panelo said.
"May magagawa ba tayo eh sila ang may control as of now, 'di ba? Meron silang pwersa dun. We can only protest like any other country na naki-claim like Vietnam and other kung ano pang bansa yun nagki-claim. Tsaka iyon lang magagawa natin eh or you want us to declare war against them?" he added.
(Can we do something about it? They control it, as of now, don't they? They have forces there. We can only protest like any other claimant countries, such as Vietnam. And what can we do? Do you want us to declare war against them?) (SunStar Philippines)