Philippine, China coast guard meet to discuss cooperation ahead of fishing season
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta Romana said cooperation between the coast guards of the two countries will be tested in March, the start of the fishing season in the Scarborough Shoal.
Speaking at a forum on Monday, Sta Romana said the coast guards of the Philippines and China will meet here in February to make sure “there will be no miscommunication between the two sides.”
In late October , China allowed Filipino fisherman access around the shoal, the scene of a standoff in 2012 that eventually led to the giant Asian country taking de facto control over the area. This came after President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to China last October.
“The cooperation of the two coast guards follows the memorandum signed in October,” said Sta Romana in the ambush interview. Text messages by the Daily Manila Shimbun to the Philippine Coast Guard for details went unanswered.
Sta Romana said 2017 will be challenging for Philippine-China relations as “a middle ground must be found to maximize our gains.”
He was referring to China’s agreement to buy more fruits, the rescue of two fishermen by the Chinese coast guard and the economic pledges given by Beijing. He said the Philippines’ economic team will go to Beijing to follow up on these promises.
Despite getting a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration last July, the Philippines has opted to set aside the verdict which invalidated China’s almost entire of the South China Sea to rebuild its ties with China after it turned chilly following the Scarborough dispute.
But Duterte last month said he will be bringing up the maritime dispute with China before his term ends in 2022.
Sta Romana also said the Philippine government is “seriously studying” the possibility of conducting joint exploration of natural resources with China in the West Philippine Sea.
Any such exploration would have to conform to the Constitution, he added.
Sta. Romana said there would be messages of nationalism in 2017 as China is set to hold its party congress.
Sta. Romana, a long-time China bureau chief for US network ABC, was confirmed as ambassador to China by the Senate last month. DMS