Sara Duterte: No need to beg China in disputed waters

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2019 11:06 PM

PROSPERIDAD - Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on Wednesday said there is no need for the Philippines to “beg” China to let Filipino fishermen into the rich fishing ground of Scarborough Shoal in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Duterte-Carpio, chairperson of the administration-backed slate Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), said it should be the national government agencies and local government units which should assist fishermen allegedly being harassed by Chinese authorities near Scarborough Shoal, called by the Philippines as Panatag Shoal.

“As a Filipino I don’t need to appeal to the Chinese government. Ang may problema diyan ang local government units and national government agencies in charge,” Duterte-Carpio told reporters on the sidelines of HNP’s campaign sortie in Agusan del Sur.

“Dapat, if mayroong right ang ating mga mangingisda na pumunta doon sa area na iyon dapat tulungan sila ng national government agencies at LGUs. We don’t need to beg or to ask the Chinese government kung atin ang lugar na iyan.”

The shoal, located only 124 nautical miles (229.65 kilometers) off Zambales and is within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), was declared by a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal as a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos and its neighbors.

But China has reportedly been denying Filipinos full access to the shoal.

Just recently, candidates from opposition slate Otso Diretso attempted to visit the shoal, in an effort to rally behind beleaguered Filipino fishermen. However, they were barred from sailing to the shoal.

Duterte-Carpio said what the Otso Diretso bets did was understandable, since it’s election and “they will take every opportunity to be in the limelight.”

“I’m sure the Chinese government knows how to discern kung ano totoong atake sa kanila at kung ano ang mga photo ops lang,” she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for supposedly being meek towards China in the face of Beijing’s aggressive actions in the disputed waters.

Duterte, however, appeared to have drawn a line following military reports that Chinese vessels were surrounding Pag-asa Island, the second naturally occurring island in the Spratlys archipelago, where China has built artificial islands to fortify its claims to the sea.

A Hugpong bet, former presidential assistant Bong Go, said Filipinos should just trust that Duterte has the interest of the Filipino in his heart when dealing with the Chinese when it comes to the sea dispute.

“Kasama po ako palagi ni Pangulong Duterte tuwing nakikipagusap siya roon sa Tsina, with President Xi Jingping, narinig ko talaga, ine-emphasize ni Pangulong Duterte ang kapakanan natin, iyon iyong pinaglalaban ni Pangulong Duterte,” Go said.

“Makikinabang po tayo [na mga Pilipino] sa kung anuman ang meron diyan [sa Panatag shoal]. Huwag po kayong mag-alala, ipaglalaban po ni Pangulong Duterte kung anong atin,” Go added.

Meanwhile, reelectionist Sen. JV Ejercito agreed with Duterte that the Philippines cannot match China militarily, which is why Manila should opt for diplomatic means in dealing with the tension.

“Whatever happens, in all honesty we cannot really match China in terms of military might, but we still have to fight for our territorial integrity and sovereignty at all costs,” Ejercito said.

But Ejercito said China has to “show that they are really a friend.”

“They consider the President as a close friend but they are harassing our fishermen,” he noted.

Scarborough 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.

The shoal is a potential flashpoint in the disputed waters, as observers say Beijing could be eyeing to build another artificial island there to fully cement its control of the vital waterway.

Manila has declared that any Chinese reclamation on the shoal would be a “red line.”