Duterte shared concern about Chinese getting Filipinos' fish catch in Scarborough, Chinese envoy says
Kawit, Cavite - President Rodrigo Duterte has "shared" concern about the reports that Chinese coast guards seized fish catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, Chinese envoy admitted on Tuesday.
Even if he was already late for the 8 a.m. flag-raising ceremony for the 120th celebration of Independence Day, Duterte stopped and briefly talked to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua who was also present here.
After apparently a serious talk as shown on the big screen here, that was the only time that Duterte proceeded to the balcony of the Museo ni Aguinaldo for the flag-raising rites.
Asked what Duterte told him, Zhao, in an interview after the ceremonies, said, "President Duterte shared his concern about the Filipino fishermen."
"I remember even before he took office, he raised concern and now he took office, China and the Philippines under the guidance of the Presidents of both countries, they reached into a friendly arrangement which allows the Filipino fishermen to go back to the waters near Scarborough. So fishermen are fishing there. This arrangement has not changed and will not be changed," he said.
Some Filipino fishermen have said that there were instances that Chinese coast guards boarded their boats to get their fish catch, sometimes in exchange for some cigarettes, noodles or water.
But one fisherman from Masinloc, Zambales said the goods from Chinese coast guards did not even compensate the catch that the foreigners got from them.
While investigation is being conducted by the Chinese authorities on the incident, Zhao said, "the initial investigation of both sides reflect that this is not harassment, this is not confiscation. It is some sort of barter trade, which have been going on for quite some time."
"When your fishermen need food, particularly when they need fresh water, the Chinese fishermen, Chinese Coast Guard will exchange these with their catch," he added.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy said Beijing has made "appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill."
Scarborough Shoal, which is declared as a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen and other nationals, is being claimed by the Philippines as it is within its 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.
"The Chinese coast guards have been safeguarding peace, order and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aids to Philippine fishermen for many times. They have always acted in accordance with the law," the Chinese Embassy 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," it added.
Apparently following the statement on Monday by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that there could be bad or rotten members of Chinese Coast Guard similar to the Philippine Coast Guard, Zhao said, "We always have bad apples."
"But if we have bad apples, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to throw them into the South China Sea and feed the fish," he said.
If the reported confiscation of fish catch of Filipino fishermen by the Chinese coast guards was true, Zhao said it should be viewed as an "isolated" incident.
"If anything happens, if the media report is somewhat true, let's view it as an isolated incident. It should not reflect the whole picture of the bilateral relationship and should not reflect the whole arrangement with regard to the fishing in the waters around Huangyan or Scarborough," he said.
Meanwhile, prior to Duterte's arrival here, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was seen seriously talking to Zhao. There was even a point that Lorenzana was pointing his finger to the Chinese envoy.
It was not clear if he was confronting the foreign envoy regarding what happened to the Filipino fishermen.
When asked what he discussed with Lorenzana, Zhao said it was confidential. Celerina Monte/DMS