President Rodrigo Duterte is set to visit China to seek its permission to allow local fishermen to return to the war-torn Scarborough Shoal. The president temporarily called off the maritime dispute against China in attempt to appease the foreign country and mend the countries’ ties.
Duterte promises help for Basilan
Prior to his state visit to China, Duterte said he would set aside the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal issue for now but vowed to ask the Chinese government to allow Filipinos to fish in the disputed area, The Philippine Star reported. The president made the announcement during an agrarian reform forum in Lamitan, Basilan on Monday.
Aside from the permission, Duterte also promised the people of Basilan to establish hospitals, schools and a hydroelectric power plant given that China will grant the Philippines soft-term loans on his four-day visit to the Southeast Asian country.
Duterte calls off dispute over Scarborough
In his speech, Duterte said he has a good feeling that the Philippines will go along well with China as long as Filipinos will not raise the issues in claiming the disputed shoal.
“I will go to China. We’re okay with them. Let’s not touch the Scarborough issue for now. We can’t solve it. Even if we get mad, it’s all hot air,” Duterte said in a Filipino speech to the residents of Lamitan.
Chinese still prevails in Panatag
Meanwhile, despite the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Chinese Coast Guard vessels still drove Filipino fishermen from the Panatag shoal. An incident was reported in Lingayen, Pangasinan on Oct. 3, where the foreign coast guards blocked the path of the approaching fishermen and drove them away from the shoal, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
The incident, which tails past reports of the same maltreatment, comes after the July 12 decision of the United Nations-backed court that said China had no historic claims to the South China Sea.
The Hague-based arbitral tribunal court ruled that China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea has no legal basis. It also declared that the country had violated the Philippines’ right to fish and explore for resources in waters within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The tribunal said it was not ruling on the sovereignty over Panatag Shoal. However, the court ruled that the Philippines has sovereign rights over Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank, areas located off Palawan that are also being claimed by China.
Duterte, accompanied by a large business delegation, is optimistic that his talks with the Chinese government will yield positive results.
What do you think of Duterte's remarks that the country cannot solve the dispute on the Scarborough Shoal? Let us know in the comments section below.