MANILA - The Philippines is verifying reports that the Chinese Coast Guard recently harassed Filipino fishermen in the disputed South China Sea, the Foreign Affairs spokesperson said Thursday.
"We are currently verifying this report with our security agencies," DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said in a text message to reporters.
Bolivar made reference to available mechanisms through which Manila may raise the matter with Beijing, given the recent turnaround in relations between the two sides.
"With the current positive momentum in PH-China relations, we have mechanisms in place where the Philippines can raise such issues. This includes the bilateral consultation mechanism, which is meant to tackle issues of concern in the West PH Sea," he added.
The Chinese Coast Guard purportedly chased away Bataan fishermen as they approached Union Reef, according to a report. The reef is located in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea.
The report said a speedboat circled their boats, fired warning shots, and then drove them away from the area. The fishermen believe the Chinese Coast Guard is securing a marine construction site in the area.
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano meanwhile condemned "the aggressive acts of Chinese Coastguardm," saying it was a violation of the Philippines' sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In a statement, Alejano demanded that Manila, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, file "a strong diplomatic protest against China and demand explanation and apology to the country."
"Once and for all, let us assert our rights by concrete actions on the ground. Otherwise, other countries particularly China will continue to abuse and disrespect us as a country," he said.
- with reports from RG Cruz and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News