The sighting of Vietnamese vessels in the Scarborough Shoal is a "good sign," the Philippine ambassador to China said Tuesday.
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said fishermen's presence could only mean that part of their traditional fishing grounds have regained access to the disputed waters.
"It is supposed to be in the traditional fishing ground of the Taiwanese, the mainland Chinese, the Filipinos, and the Vietnamese, so in this sense, it is happening again," Sta. Romana said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
"Had we known this verdict back in 2012 that it's a historical fishing ground, perhaps we should not have arrested the Chinese fishermen," Sta. Romana added.
Sta. Romana was referring to a standoff between the Philippine Navy and the Chinese coastguard in 2012, when Filipino troops tried to arrest Chinese fishermen in the shoal before being blocked by China.
An arbitration tribunal ruling in 2016 discarded China's economic claim to the Scarborough Shoal, but Filipino fishermen were only allowed to return to cast their nets in the area after President Rodrigo Duterte met with Chinese president Xi Jinping in October.
Duterte has scheduled his second visit to China in May to "have a bilateral meeting which will advance further the two countries' bilateral relationship."