Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to the Chinese government on May 16 to allow Filipino fishermen at the Panatag Shoal.
A Facebook post has been generating activities over the Internet about Duterte’s alleged request for permission concerning the fishermen’s plight over Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.
Apparently, the alleged ‘asking for permission’ was done in compliance with Beijing’s new law, mandated on January, requiring foreign fishing boats to seek its permission before operating in the West Philippine Sea. The law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress reportedly took effect last month and covered two million hectares of the disputed area.
Duterte gave a statement to clarify the issue. "I said to let go, 'wag naman nila ipitin 'yung mga fishermen. That spells food security for the Filipino. If you disallow troll fishing, commercial fishing, I would understand. But those in bancas, 'wag ninyong ipitin kasi kailangan din naman kumain ng Filipino," he said. (I said to let go, don’t force the fishermen. That spells food security for the Filipino. If you disallow troll fishing, commercial fishing, I would understand. But those in boat, do not harass them because they also need to eat.)
Officials have reported that Filipinos can now freely fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal area without being harassed by Chinese authorities to which Duterte said, "Then I would like to thank China for understanding the plight of the Filipino.”
China started to up its presence in the disputed areas on April 10, 2012, when surveillance ships with Chinese origins barred the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese poachers who had harvested endangered marine species.
Since then, China has been deploying ships in the area, which incidentally is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Despite the Philippines’ efforts to send civilian ships to the area, facing off with the Chinese vessels had been difficult especially when a pullout had been necessary on June 15, 2012 allegedly due to bad weather.
Duterte also said that the Philippines continues to be allied with Western powers such as the United States. As soon as he assumes office, he will be ready to pursue multilateral talks about the sea row, he added.