MANILA--President Rodrigo Duterte may raise China's alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal when he visits Beijing next month, his spokesperson said Wednesday.
Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares last week released a Facebook video in which 2 Filipino fishermen detailed how the Chinese Coast Guard would seize their catch and drive them away from the resource-rich shoal.
"I think he (Duterte) will raise that as an issue during the visit [to China]. Si Presidente nagri-raise kaagad iyung mga ganoon, but hindi iyung para kang nagwawala," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told ANC.
(The president immediately raises issues like that, but not in a way that you'd seem to be running amok.)
Duterte, who has sought economic ties with Beijing, will attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China in April.
The Philippine government will "definitely" protest the supposed harassment of fishermen, said Panelo.
"We will not allow fishermen, countrymen to be harassed by any foreign entity," he said.
Panelo, who is also Duterte's chief legal adviser, said the government should also "go back to the negotiating table" and re-examine trade agreements with Beijing.
"Kung inaapi nyo kami e teka muna, tingnan muna natin ulit iyung mga agreements natin," he said.
(If you are oppressing us, wait, let's look at our agreement again first.)
Scarborough, called by Filipinos as Panatag Shoal and by the Chinese as Huangyan Island, was the site of a 2012 standoff between the Philippines and China. The standoff erupted when Manila sent its biggest warship to chase off Chinese poachers.
China gained effective control of the shoal after Manila withdrew its vessel. It then started blocking Filipino fishermen from the shoal.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s overtures to Beijing lowered the tension in the area, with Chinese President Xi Jinping himself promising to allow Filipino fishermen back into the rocky outcrop.
But fishermen said China continued to have control over the shoal despite the decision of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in 2016 which declared it as a traditional fishing ground for both China and the Philippines.
The shoal is a potential flashpoint in the disputed sea, as maritime experts said Beijing was eyeing to build another artificial island there to fully cement its control of the vital waterway.
Manila has declared any Chinese reclamation on the shoal as a “red line.”