MANILA - Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has suggested that the Philippines, China, and Vietnam reach a “common agreement" over Scarborough Shoal, rich fishing grounds within the disputed South China Sea.
Carpio, in an interview with CNN Philippines Wednesday, stressed that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that Scarborough Shoal is a common fishing ground (traditional fishing ground) for the three nations.
"The one thing that's lacking is there's no common agreement between these three nations," he said.
"They should sit down and discuss the rules of fishing within that shoal because we have to preserve the fish tax so there will be sustainable fishing. But the Chinese don't want to discuss that with us,” he added.
An advocate of Manila's rights in the disputed waters, Carpio lamented reports of bullying of Filipino fishermen by members of the Chinese Coast Guard.
"For me, it's harassment. It's even theft, because they're taking it against the will of Filipino fishermen. We should protest at the very least," he said.
Malacañang on Thursday made the assurance that the Philippines is not conceding its rights over Scarborough Shoal while Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua said Beijing
would take action against Chinese coast guard personnel who took the catch of Filipino fishermen in the shoal.
In its case against China before the international tribunal, the Philippines raised the issue of the presence of Chinese government vessels in the shoal since 2012 and its interaction with local fishermen.
The tribunal found that “China has, through the operation of its official vessels at Scarborough Shoal from May 2012 onwards, unlawfully prevented Filipino fishermen from engaging in traditional fishing at Scarborough Shoal.”
In its 2016 ruling on the maritime dispute, the arbitration tribunal ruled on the issue of traditional fishing at the atoll but did not touch on the issue of sovereignty.
“Consistent with the limitations on its jurisdiction, the Tribunal has refrained from any decision or comment on sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal,” the ruling stated.