Duterte to raise Pinoy fishermen’s plight to Xi if necessary

MANILA If given the chance, President Rodrigo R. Duterte would raise the issue of Chinese Coast Guard personnel reportedly taking catch from Filipino fishermen in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to Chinese President Xi Jinping, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made this remark two days after meeting three fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales who appealed to the government to discourage Chinese Coast Guard personnel from taking their catch in exchange for water, noodles, and cigarettes.

Kung may pagkakataon siguro eh, ididiretso na ni Presidente 'yan kay President Xi 'no dahil talaga namang hindi pupuwedeng inaapi ang ating mga kababayan (If given the chance, the President will go straight to President Xi because we cannot allow our citizens to be abused), Roque said in a radio interview.

Roque said Duterte is currently awaiting results of the investigation but noted that he is not merely relying on China's promise of friendly arrangements in relation to sea disputes.

Hindi na po umasa ang Presidente sa diplomatic channels, at siya na po mismo ang nakipag-usap sa Ambassador (The President is not only relying on diplomatic channels, he himself has spoken to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua), Roque said.

On Tuesday, Duterte got the chance to talk to Zhao during the commemoration of the country's 120th Independence Day at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite.

Zhao earlier assured that the Chinese government is investigating the matter and will discipline erring personnel in accordance with their own regulations.

Roque, meanwhile, emphasized that in 2016, Duterte and and Xi have agreed on a truce on sea disputes to regain fishing rights for Filipinos.

Nagkaroon po kasi talaga ng kasunduan ang Presidente at si President Xi na magkakaroon ng kalayaan ng pangingisda diyan (The President and President Xi have an agreement to allow fishing rights there), Roque said.

On Monday, one of the three fishermen from Zambales, Romel Sihuela, said that although he did not consider the taking of their catch as harassment, he would prefer if the Chinese Coast Guards wait for them to be given fish instead of forcibly taking it from them.

Because he had difficulty speaking in English, Sihuela said that Chinese Coast Guard personnel must have assumed that taking their fish in exchange for goods was acceptable.

Linawin lang namin na wala namang ginawang pangha-harass sa amin. Kumbaga ano lang, mapilit silang kukuha ng isda kasi hindi kami nagkakaintindihan (We want to clarify that there was no harassment that took place. What happened was they forcibly took our fish because we could not understand each other), Sihuela said.

Kung gusto nila humingi ng isda, 'wag sila mag-akyat sa bangka namin at maghalungkat. Maghintay na lang sila na kami kusa ang magbigay (If they want to ask for fish, we hope that they don't just hop onto our boats and look for fish. They can just wait until we give some to them), he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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