CAGAYAN – The Philippines may soon gain fishing rights in the highly disputed Scarborough Shoal, President Rodrigo Duterte announced Sunday.
During his visit to typhoon “Lawin” victims in Cagayan, Duterte told local fishermen to “just wait for a few more days” and maybe they can go back to Scarborough Shoal.
“We’ll just wait for a few more days baka makabalik na tayo doon sa Scarborough Shoal, ang pangingisda ng ating mga kababayan [and maybe we can go back to Scarborough Shoal, the fishing of our countrymen],” Duterte said in a speech.
The President clarified that he did not discuss about war or weapons with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during his state visit to China.
“Ako po ay nagpunta doon wala ho kaming pinagusapang armas. Wala po kaming pinag-usapang giyera-giyera. Pinag-usapan namin paano tayo magtulungan,” Duterte said.
(I went there and we did not discuss about firearms. We did not discuss about war. We talked about how we can help each other.)
Since both the Philippines and China claim ownership over Scarborough Shoal, Duterte asked local fishermen not to fish in lagoons in the sea which serve as breeding grounds for fish to avoid an imbalance in supply.
“Ako na mismo ang nagsabi na kung makabalik tayo sa Scarborough Shoal bilang may-ari — sabi nila sila rin may-ari — ako na mismo magsabi huwag kayo mangisda diyan — yung parang fishpond sa dagat — makita mo green instead of blue. ‘Yun lang pinakiusap ko para magkaroon tayo ng magandang supply,” he said.
(I am personally saying that if we can return to Scarborough Shoal, as owner, they also said they’re the owner, don’t fish there — the one that looks like a fishpond in the ocean which is green instead of blue. That’s my only request so we can have a good supply.)
He told fishermen not to “gamble and destroy” the breeding grounds of fish in the sea since marine products are the cheapest food Filipinos can buy in the market.
“The cheapest thing that we can buy today is the marine product. So if not to really gamble and destroy the spawning ground because then it would result in an imbalance sa ating pagkain (to our food),” he said.
Duterte also revealed that Xi has already asked Chinese fishermen to leave Scarborough but is not sure whether the Chinese leader would fulfill their agreements.
“Ang alam ko pinaalis na rin niya ang mga Chinese na fisherman at parang wala ka nang makita diyan. ‘Yun ang pinag-usapan namin ewan ko kung tutuparin nila,” he said.
(I know he (Xi) already asked Chinese fishermen to leave so you won’t see anyone anymore. That’s what we discussed. I don’t know if they will fulfill it.)
Filipino fishermen have been reportedly denied access to Scarborough Shoal by Chinese coast guards.
Last July, the Hague arbitration tribunal has ruled in favor of the Philippines on the disputed South China Sea which includes Scarborough Shoal.
According to the decision, Scarborough Shaol is a common fishing ground of Chinese, Filipino, and Vietnamese fishermen.