MANILA - A huge insult was how Vice President Leni Robredo saw China's statement that it was allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag Shoal “out of goodwill.”
“Pakiramdam ko malaking sampal iyon sa atin, malaking insulto kasi bakit ka kailangan humingi ng permiso sa pangingisda sa sarili mong (karagatan), sa pag-aari ng ating bayan,” she told reporters at the sidelines of an outreach program organized by her office and private partners.
(I think that's a huge slap on us, a big insult because why would fishermen need to secure permission to fish in their own sea?)
A UN-backed court in 2016 has invalidated China's sweeping historic claims to the resource-rich sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually. But China's actions show it still has firm control over the area.
Robredo said there was need for tighter security patrol in the area after claims by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano that Philippine security forces were pulled out in the area, which was denied by Malacañang.
“Whatever it is, kailangang palakasin kasi hindi lang ito para sa mga mangingisda kundi para sa ating lahat, para sa mga generations na will come after us,” Robredo said.
(Whatever it is, we need to strengthen our security forces not only for our fishermen but for all of us, for the generations that will come after us.)
Robredo also said that while the Philippines need not put up a fight against China, it should still come up with a stronger stance amid allegations Chinese harassment.
“Palagay ko masyado tayong malambot sa pag-deal sa mga incursion, hindi lang sa teritory, pati sa sovereignty. 'Yung sa akin dapat palakasin ang boses, palakasin ang protesta,” Robredo said.
(I think we were too soft in dealing with incursion not only on our territory, but also sovereignty. I think the protests should be louder.)
Members of the Chinese coast guard in Scarborough Shoal reportedly bullied Filipino fishermen into giving them the best catch from the rich fishing ground off Zambales province.
Malacañang said it would look into the incident and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Beijing would take action against the coast guard personnel.