PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the Philippines can still file a diplomatic protest against China over the alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen by the Chinese Coast Guard off waters of Ayungin Shoal despite his earlier agreement with its President Xi JinPing.

In an interview with television news anchors on Monday evening, January 23, 2023, Marcos said his verbal agreement with Xi on matters concerning the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) “haven’t come to the compromise yet” since the incident happened right after he returned from his visit to China.

“That does not preclude us from continuing to make protest, send note verbales, concerning this... I just hope we can come to some kind of arrangement,” he said.

The Philippine Coast Guard earlier said they are investigating an incident that happened on January 9 where a Chinese Coast Guard Vessel allegedly drove away Filipino’s fishing in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.

In response, Marcos said the government used the direct communication mechanism he proposed to Xi during his visit there.

“So we have immediately used that thing, that mechanism that I talked about [with which] we can even immediately contact the Chinese government, and hopefully our counterparts on the other side can bring it to President Xi’s attention, this problem, and we have done that,” the President said.

“Let me clarify what we talked about with President Xi. It was very simple. I said we have to raise the level of discourse between the Philippines and China... If President Xi puts out an order that we will not do that anymore, we will do something else, then I think it will be -- I think the chain of command is fairly solid," he added.

Earlier, Marcos said there is already an agreement between the Philippines and China that Filipino fishermen will no longer be stopped from fishing despite tensions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The Philippine government has filed numerous diplomatic protests against China over the harassment of Filipino fishermen, as well as security forces in the disputed territory.

China has refused to recognize the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen in the area, invalidating their claims in sea areas falling within the nine-dash line which is over 90 percent of the WPS. (SunStar Philippines)