But differences over language stalling final agreement, says Filipino fishermen's lawyer
MANILA - (UPDATED) Kabayan Party-list Representative Harry Roque, who was part the Philippine delegation in President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit to China, said the two governments have reached a "modus vivendi" to allow Filipino fishermen to fish again in Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal.
Speaking on ANC's "Beyond Politics," Roque said China and the Philippines have reached an agreement, but the two countries have yet to sign the actual document.
"My understanding is there is already a modus vivendi, there is already an agreement that we can fish. What has kept us from signing anything in writing is apparently the problem with words to be used," he said.
The two governments are still deciding on the wording of the actual document.
"China wants to say that they have allowed us to fish and Philippine authorities refuse that language because we don't need anyone's permission to fish in traditional fishing grounds, but even if they have not completely threshed out the language of the agreement, there's already a modus vivendi, an understanding that Scarborough fishermen can fish again and to me that's very important because the fishermen are my clients," Roque said.
According to Roque, China and the Philippines may be able to finalize the written understanding by December.
"Well, I'm hoping that when it becomes calmer by December, they would have something in writing already. I can't say who told me, but it's really just the issue of should it be the word 'allowed' or something else, because no one needs to allow us to pursue what we have traditionally been engaged in," he explained.
Roque said the agreement would mean that the Chinese Coast Guard, which has been preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the rich fishing ground, would leave Scarborough Shoal.
"And my understanding is, it's not even going to be joint fishing. The Chinese will completely leave Scarborough. They will actually ask their fishermen to leave and their coast guard to leave. They would restore the status quo ante," he said.
In July, Filipino fishermen were still not allowed to fish in Scarborough Shoal, even after an international court backed the maritime case filed by the Philippines against China.
In February, China's Coast Guard allegedly fired water cannons at Filipino fishermen for the first time to drive them away from a disputed sea shoal.