REPRESENTATIVES of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) as well as the Department of Agriculture (DA) are set to travel to China in July to discuss with their Chinese counterparts the issues on patrolling and fishing in the disputed West Philippine Sea, the Philippines’ top diplomat said.
“[The Philippine and Chinese] coast guards are talking. This July, pupunta ‘yung (our) coast guard group natin sa (will go to) China….Yung (Our) fisheries department natin; agriculture-to-agriculture; fisheries-to-fisheries, mag-uusap din (will also talk),” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said in an interview with CNN last Friday, July 15.
He said ongoing talks between the Philippines and China show that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration is being “prudent” in addressing the issue.
Mr. Cayetano also cited, as a result of the warming ties between the two states, the “tentative fishing agreement” allowing Filipino fishermen in the disputed waters. But on June 11, Spokesperson Geng Shuang of the Chinese Foreign Ministry called it a gesture of “goodwill.”
“China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill. This policy remains unchanged. At this point, the China-Philippines friendly relations have taken on a positive trend, and China has a clear and firm determination to commit itself to consolidating and strengthening China-Philippines relations,” Mr. Geng said.
For his part, Mr. Cayetano said, “It’s a tentative fishing agreement, that’s why I’m saying [we are] prudent, patient, [and] quiet kami magtrabaho [we’re quiet in doing our job]. Hindi sa [Not through the] microphone.”
“It’s a tentative fishing agreement,” he repeated. “Well, if you ask them why, of course, they will say ‘goodwill,’ because they cannot say, ‘because it’s yours,’ then they will give up their position. In the same manner sa atin (that to us), hindi tatanggapin ng Chinese people na kaya nandoon ang fishermen dahil atin ‘yun (the Chinese people will not accept that our fishermen are there because we claim it’s ours). We’re saying,… the only reason you’re there is because we are peace-loving, but that’s ours. Never natin binabago ‘yun (we never changed that). That’s on the record,” he said.
Mr. Cayetano also called the vocal critics of China, especially opposition Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary C. Alejano, “liars” for claiming that Sandy Cay, a shoal near the Pag-asa Island in the disputed West Philippine Sea, has been in control of China since last year.
“They’re liars. They’re trying to take down the government, and they are lying left and right…. No one built on Sandy Cay. It’s an uninhabited [island] and katabi siya ng (it’s near) Pag-asa, so we’re free to patrol there. Our fishermen can go, but all the others — Malaysia, Vietnam, China, etc., do not want us to build there because we have a DOC,” he said, referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed in 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Section 5 of the said declaration states, “The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.” — A.L. Balinbin