US assessing situation at Panatag

12

THE United States is verifying reports that Chinese coast guard vessels have finally opened up Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) to Filipino fishermen.

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In a news briefing in Washington on Friday (Saturday morning in Manila), State department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was aware of the reports and was “assessing” the situation at Panatag.

“[We are] still assessing. We hope it is certainly not a temporary measure,” the State department official said.

On Friday, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Filipino fishermen have been fishing at Panatag Shoal in the past three days without interference from the Chinese coast guard.

Abella told AFP on Saturday: “There is no sign of Chinese coast guard vessels in the area. While we do not have any official explanation for this, it sends a positive signal regarding relations.”

“This is a welcome development especially for Filipino fisherfolk,” he added.

Panatag is a triangular chain of reefs and rocks surrounding a 46-kilometer lagoon, spanning an area of 150 square kilometers. It was seized by China after a two-month standoff with the Philippines in 2012.

In a case brought by the administration of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, the Philippines won a resounding victory at an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague on July 12 over Beijing’s extensive maritime claims in the area, infuriating the Asian giant.

But President Rodrigo Duterte has made a point of not flaunting the ruling and Chinese President Xi Jinping told the Philippine leader on his recent visit that there was no reason for hostility and difficult topics of discussion “could be shelved temporarily.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no direct confirmation on the Chinese coast guard’s withdrawal, but spoke in a conciliatory note on the reported resumption of Philippine fishing activities at Panatag.

“With President Duterte’s visit, bilateral relations have turned to a new page of all-around improvement. Under such circumstances, it is fully possible for the two countries to return to the track of managing disputes through consultation and focusing on cooperation,” a ministry spokesman said during a news briefing in Beijing on Friday.

The ministry noted that the two sides agreed to fishing industry cooperation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during the meeting.

CPP hits US
Washington, which supported the arbitration process, however said it hoped the deal between Manila and Beijing took the July 12 ruling into account.

“We’d like it to be a sign that China and the Philippines are moving toward an agreement on fishing access at Scarborough that would be in accordance with the July 12 arbitral decision,” the State department’s Toner said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) pounced on Toner’s statement and hit the US for interfering in the country’s affairs.

“In the first place, the US has no standing whatsoever the make any assessment in an area that is part of Philippine maritime territory,” said the CPP in a statement. “Secondly, it is US war-mongering and naval buildup in accordance with its US pivot to encircle China that is at the root of the outstanding security problems in the South China Sea.”

The CPP, which is in talks for a final peace deal with the government, congratulated Manila and Beijing for the apparent breakthrough.

“The settlement of the Scarborough issue underscores what can be achieved by asserting national independence, building friendly relations with neighboring countries and opposing outside interference, especially war instigations by the US military,” it said.

Big catch
A report by GMA Network said fishermen from the northern province of Pangasinan had returned to shore Saturday with “a huge load of big species of fish” caught at Panatag Shoal.

Fishermen from Pangasinan, who ventured back to the Panatag on Wednesday, said Chinese coast guard vessels did not intercept them.

The fishermen described the shoal as an abundant fishing ground, especially at the west side of the lagoon.

Fishermen from Subic, Masinloc and Santa Cruz towns in Zambales as well as those from Bataan also started sailing toward Panatag Shoal on Wednesday.

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12 Comments

  1. Yonkers, New York
    29 October 2016

    Now that China clearly is allowing Filipino fishermen to go back fishing at the SCARBOROUGH SHOAL, it is clear that it has done so because, as Little Tyrant Rodrigo declared in his 18-21 October state visit to Beijing, the Philippines is now “REALIGNED WITH YOUR IDEOLOGICAL FLOW”–meaning, of course that the Philippines is now a COMMUNIST country.

    And that explains why the COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES [CPP] which is now safely “in bed” with Little Tyrant Duterte, has just applauded China for allowing those Filipino fishermen to go back and fish at the Scarborough Shoal no longer being shooed away by the Chinese Coast Guard.

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com

  2. why would you bother to do so?

    is it not our fishermen’s full load of fish says it all? or are you still broiling an additional confusion to the Filipino people?

    shut up! let us move on, please!

  3. PatrioticFilipino2 on

    The US military should drive away the Chinks from Scarborough and Panatag and others if they feel like doing it. The Philippines will waiting for this action.

  4. John Chameleon on

    I earnestly suggest to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to build a factory of modern fishing boats in every coastal region on a gradual basis if it can’t be done simultaneously. The fishermen are having a big catch now that they are using outriggers therefore a bigger catch will be attained with the new technology equipped fishing vessels. Our country is an island country but it is using antiquated fishing boats until NOW. Our fishing and canning industry have a very bright future. Let’s optimize all possibilities by launching proactive projects. The factory can then award or sell the boats on installments to fishermen cooperatives and eventually provide ample supplies of fish to our canning or food processing factories. The modern boats factory can also generate additional jobs, markets and exports. It’s a shame that small countries like Taiwan and Singapore are touting modern fishing vessels while we, with 7,100 islands, are still stuck with outriggers.

    As for the interference of America. leave the dorks with their dream of bringing the Philippines and China into a flashpoint by raising some stupid observation. Our country and China will prevent any war in this area. Intrigues are the masterpiece of the war-mongering superpower cum superborrower but we won’t take their boneheaded bait.

    • I like your comment…”.leave the dorks with their dream of bringing the Philippines and China into a flashpoint by raising some stupid observation. Our country and China will prevent any war in this area. Intrigues are the masterpiece of the war-mongering superpower cum superborrower but we won’t take their boneheaded bait”. If the PH have more people like you instead of slavish and servile boneheads like …. you know whom, the PH will develop much faster than it did in the past 50 years of Yanqui domination.

    • no. I disagree with your position statement about the fishing industry. bigger boats will deplete the resources quicker… this is exactly what China has done to their coast line and hence they are forcedto encroach on our fishing grounds. what we need is DENR to tightly regulate fishing practices to heavily penalise our fishermen from catching and selling undersize fish. whilst I don’t agree with the Chinese coast guard preventing our fishermen from fishing in panatag shoals, they’ve actually done something good by protecting the dwindling fish reserves from completely dying out. secondly, its high time to send in our coast guard vessels there to prevent Chinese trawlers from poaching our marine life.

    • agree 101%! that’s the way to move upward…yup! digong knows how to play his card. have you heard him said, “timing and calculation is crucial to any move, any miscalculation could be a desaster” or words to that effect…

  5. bakit nakikisawsaw na naman ang mga amerikano sa issue na yan? mga kano heto makinig kayo! wag nyo pakialaman ang aming kasarinlan pwede?

  6. The PROC navy can be back at the Panatag Shoals any time depending on the bilateral diplomatic relations between RP and PROC. Fishing at the shoals is the carrot, and the PROC navy is the stick in the ongoing diplomatic thaw between the two countries represented by the dragon and the donkey. Of course everyone know which country is represented by the dragon. . . Cercle Canadien sur les Questions Asiatiques

    • You are too pessimistic and it shows your servile attitude towards America. God help the PH is more of you continue to cling obstinately to the past.