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Pinoys to continue fishing in Panatag




MANILA, Philippines, May 20 ------ Filipino fisherfolk will not be cowed and will continue to fish in Panatag Shoal despite China’s empowering of its coast guard to detain for 60 days without trial anyone or any vessel found trespassing in what it considers its territorial waters. 

  

In a radio interview at the weekend, New Masinloc Fishermen’s Association president Leonardo Cuaresma maintained that Panatag Shoal is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). “They (Chinese) have been doing that (harassment). We are not violating any laws and we will continue to fish there (Panatag Shoal),” Cuaresma said. He asked the Philippine Coast Guard to increase its presence in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. “Our fellow Filipino fishermen will not do anything that is bad. The government should use its resources to show that (Panatag Shoal) is not their (China) territory. We also have many allied countries. They should be tapped to conduct joint maritime patrol to show our strength,” Cuaresma said. 

  

While not intimidated by China’s threat of arrest, fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakayang Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) will remain vigilant and alert as its members continue to fish in the West Philippine Sea. Cuaresma stressed that this is a fight not only of fisherfolk but all Filipinos. “We showed our unity to expose what is happening in the WPS. That is ours and not owned (by China),” he maintained. 

  

President Marcos yesterday described as “unacceptable” China’s plan to detain without trial those who violate its “maritime administrative law” on what it views as its territorial waters, including practically the whole South China Sea. The directive of the China Coast Guard to detain alleged “trespassers” was rolled out on May 15, and said that it will take effect on June 15, according to Chinese state-run news agency China News Service. “That kind of action would be completely unacceptable to the Philippines... I do not talk about the operational details so we will leave it to us. But the position that we take is that, that is unacceptable and we will take whatever measures to always protect our citizens,” Marcos told reporters. 

  

Pamalakaya provincial director Joey Marabe said China’s directive has no “legal basis.” “Filipino fishers do not recognize China’s order to arrest those they consider foreigners in the waters they have usurped,” Marabe said, adding that Chinese personnel should be the ones arrested and held accountable for entering the country’s territory to conduct illegal fishing, reclamation, and the construction of military structures. he added. 

  

Meanwhile, the Philippines can file cases before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea or the International Court of Justice if China detains foreigners entering disputed areas in the South China Sea, Sen. Francis Tolentino said. “When they dare to do that (detain foreigners), there is a provision in the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) Article 73, the coastal state can impose penalties for violation of fisheries laws and regulation in EEZ and may not include imprisonment,” said Tolentino in an interview over dzBB. “It is clear from UNCLOS that what they are doing is wrong, so this is another violation, we can file a new case against China at the International Court of Justice,” he added. 

  

Tolentino said in the case of the Philippines, China is not the coastal state. “They (China) are not the coastal state, maybe they use the wrong compass or gadget, they measure wrong,” he said. When asked to react to the supposed wiretapping issue involving Chinese and Philippine officials, Marcos said the government is “looking into it.” “Because really, the fact of the matter is there have been mentions of a tape that confirms that there was this agreement (on Ayungin Shoal), et cetera, all of that. And I keep hearing that there is a tape and I want to hear it. And as yet, we don’t have it. So it’s very hard to come to a conclusion until we know that the thing actually exists, If it does exist, it is in the possession of the Chinese embassy, the Chinese government. So until they release it becomes harder and harder to believe and to accept that there was an agreement.” he added. 

  

Marcos said agencies are “very conscious” of cybersecurity. “We have spoken to many experts and we have taken some of the best people in cybersecurity (who) are actually Filipino. But they are civilians. So we have to bring some of them, I don’t know if we can find an arrangement for them to work for the military, to work for government agencies. Maybe as a free agent. We’ll see,” he added. With regard to the issue involving Bamban Mayor Alice Guo, who has been accused of being a Chinese spy, Marcos said the executive and legislative branches should be allowed to conduct their investigation on the issues surrounding her. He added that his photos with Guo that are circulating online do not mean anything. “That proves nothing. You know how many pictures I take during a campaign? Maybe one thousand per day. Everyone is requesting for selfies and I do not refuse,” the Chief Executive said. 

  

Source: philstar.com 

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