LOOK: Duterte chats with Chinese envoy amid 'bullying' report

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 12 2018 09:46 AM | Updated as of Jun 12 2018 10:42 AM

KAWIT, Cavite - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday chatted with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua amid a report that Filipino fishermen were harassed by Chinese coast guard personnel in Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground off Zambales province.

Duterte talked with Zhao immediately after arriving at the historic Aguinaldo Shrine here, where he led Independence Day rites for the first time as president.

Zhao was also seen talking with Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana before Duterte's arrival.

A recent television report showed Chinese coast guard personnel asking for the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough, also known as Panatag Shoal.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has confirmed that the Chinese coast guard took the fish catch from the Filipinos in exchange for noodles, cigarettes and clean water.

"Kada kinukuhanan sila ng isda, bibigyan sila ng noodles, sigarilyo at pinakaimportante, tubig, dahil parati silang nagkukulang sa tubig," he told Palace reporters.

(Every time the Chinese coast guard get the fish from Filipino fishermen, they would exchange it with noodles, cigarettes and, more importantly, water, because they are always running out of water.)

He described the actions of the “rotten” Chinese coast guard personnel as a “small incident” that should not affect the overall ties of the Philippines and China.

“China should discipline its rotten coast guard personnel. This is not acceptable, [but] I would not say it was harassment,” Roque said.

Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, located in the South China Sea, falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. An international arbitration ruling in 2016, which invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire sea, declared that both China and the Philippines have “traditional fishing rights” to Scarborough.

China had previously blocked Filipinos’ access to the rich fishing ground, but Manila’s rapprochement with Beijing under President Duterte supposedly reversed the situation.

The shoal is a potential flashpoint in the disputed sea, as maritime experts say Beijing is 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.