The government is asking Filipino fishermen to refrain from fishing near the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal while it continues to press its territorial claim before the international arbitral tribunal.
In a press briefing, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the Philippines is not giving up what is “ours” but chose “not to make any actions that would tend to escalate the situation.”
“We have consistently reiterated that ‘what is ours, remains ours’, but there is a deliberate choice to avoid or to not respond to any provocative actions,” Valte said.
Some fishermen who used to earn up to P500,000 a month from their catch have reportedly lost their livelihood because of Chinese encroachment in the shoal.
Valte assured that the affected fishermen will receive government aid.
“The BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources] has encouraged them to find alternative fishing grounds,” she said, noting that fish aggregating devices or payao have been placed for fishermen in the area. This would serve to attract fish for harvest in the municipal waters.
Valte stressed that the government will stick to diplomacy in resolving maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), where there are overlapping claims from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.
“If you notice our response to maritime disputes, we have always taken it to the proper forum; and from where we stand, we cannot take any action that may tend to exacerbate the situation apart from the approach that we’ve already taken,” she said.