MALACANANG on Thursday insisted that the Philippines was not conceding to China the country's traditional fishing rights at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal amid the controversial fish-taking incident in the area.

In a press conference, Palace spokesman Harry Roque even described as "fish thievery" the actions of Chinese Coast Guard officers getting the catch of fishermen who passed by the shoal, located only 124 nautical miles off Zambales.

"We do not concede (to China)," Roque told reporters, amid a warning by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio that the Philippines may lose its legal right to fish in Panatag if it would concede to China's narrative that it only allowed Filipino fishermen there "out of goodwill."

"So for lack of better word let’s call it pangungotong in Tagalog, which is fish thievery. I have never really addressed it as barter, but there’s a possibility given the language barrier that they consider it as a barter but from our point of view it is not. I hope that’s clear," he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China has only been allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag Shoal "out of goodwill."

Roque said he didn't care if Filipino fishermen were allowed to fish in Panatag Shoal out of China's "goodwill," as what matters is that they now had access to the shoal's resources.

"Actually, I don’t care what the reason is. But as counsel for the fishermen, they are able to fish now under the administration of President Duterte. To me as their counsel, as their former counsel, that’s what matters," Roque said, who was the former counsel to fishermen who protested China's harassment in Panatag during the previous administration.

"Because when we sue China, that’s for violation of the right to life and the right to livelihood. They have now a livelihood. I live it here for now," the Palace official said.

Filipino fishermen had asked for the government's help amid complaints that Chinese coast guards have been forcibly taking their best catch in Panatag Shoal off Zambales.

Malacañang urged Beijing to prevent the unacceptable situation from happening again.

The Chinese should not take a single kilo of fish from the Filipino fishermen, according to Roque.

Beijing, in turn, has committed to investigate the alleged misconduct of its coast guards and impose sanctions if allegations were proven. It also assured the Duterte administration that it has no policy of harassing Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea.

China seized control of Panatag Shoal, an area within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, following a standoff between the Philippines and Chinese vessels in 2012.

Beijing prevented Filipino fishermen from entering the shoal, prompting the Aquino government to seek United Nations arbitration.

The Hague-based arbitration court nullified China’s sweeping claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying it violated the Philippines' sovereign rights by building artificial islands and interfering with fishing activities.