PH to temporarily set aside sea row with China - Yasay

Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2016 01:34 PM

Beijing pledges aid to Pinoy fishers in Scarborough

PERU - China is not only allowing Filipino fishermen to return to the disputed Scarborough Shoal but has also offered to provide them with livelihood training, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Sunday.

"The Chinese has offered our fishermen opportunities for them to develop and train, to make sure that their livelihood as fishermen will be strongly supported and they will be even able to engage themselves in the culturing of fishes that will sustain their families and their livelihood," he said.

Yasay said Manila, for its part, has pledged to temporarily set aside its conflicting territorial claims with Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea.

"We also had made sure that any actions that would be taken by us will be precisely to just simply promote our interests; with the area of jurisdiction, territorial ownership and sovereignty will be set aside in the meantime until a solution is in sight in the future," he said.

Yasay's statement comes in the heels of a meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in Lima, Peru.

During their meeting, Duterte promised to cooperate with China as he asked the regional superpower and emerging close ally to "lead the way in the economic development" of Asia.

"As I have given you my word, we will cooperate with you. And I said, with my thrust of an independent foreign policy, we will find ourselves mutually agreeing on so many things and align our foreign policy towards the development of Asia," he told Xi.

In return, Xi asked Duterte to join him in 2017 at the BRICS conference, an annual meeting of major emerging economies including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Xi also underscored that disputes over the South China Sea should be resolved bilaterally, state media reported.

Duterte and Xi first met in October when the Filipino leader visited Beijing, signaling a fresh start in bilateral relations that had been strained by a territorial dispute in the waterway.

After Duterte's state visit, Filipino fishermen were given access by the Chinese Coast Guard to Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground.

China seized Scarborough Shoal -- claimed by Beijing as Huangyan island and by Manila as Panatag -- in 2012, denying Pinoy fishermen access to its rich fishing stock.

The seizure formed part of a case the Philippines took to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, which in July ruled that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea, including a 320-kilometer exclusive economic zone around the Spratly islands.

China has declared the ruling "null and void" but said it is time to get talks started again between the countries directly involved in the issue.

Duterte's campaign to bolster ties with China comes after weeks of combative language against the US, which was prompted by American President Barack Obama's criticism of the extrajudicial bloodbath in the Philippine war on drugs.