MANILA – Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay wants to establish a provisional fishing agreement with China to allow access to Filipino fishermen into the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
He made this statement during a budget briefing at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, adding that this will help reduce the rising tension and establish a better environment for bilateral negotiations with China.
“But before these bilateral negotiations to take place, we would like for China, at this point, to come out and agree with what is known as a provisional agreement for the purpose of allowing our fishermen to go back into their traditional fishing grounds,” said Yasay.
Yasay stressed that the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that the Scarborough Shoal is a common fishing ground, not entirely restricted to a particular exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.
“We have also committed to them, under the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal, (that) these are also the traditional fishing grounds of the Chinese and the Vietnamese, and we have under this ruling, no right to drive them out as well,” said Yasay.
The Foreign Secretary said that there is a West Philippine Sea Task Force which encourages Filipino fishermen to go to the traditional fishing grounds amid reported restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.
“This is just as much as we can do for now. We protest against any actions taken by the Chinese in disallowing or preventing our fishermen from fishing there,” Yasay said.
The Philippines’ top diplomat, however, assured that the country “won’t be engaging China in a shooting war.”
“We will exercise maximum tolerance, restraint and sobriety for this purpose. Our task, at this point, is to make sure that our diplomatic processes that we will be embarking and continue to embark, in fact, will result in the kind of objectives that we would like to achieve,” he added.