Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte has asked China to allow Filipino fishermen to continue fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview on Friday night, Duterte said he made the appeal when he met Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on Monday, May 16, in Davao City.
"I said to let go, 'wag naman nila ipitin 'yung mga fishermen. That spells food security for the Filipino. If you disallow troll fishing, commercial fishing, I would understand. But those in bancas, 'wag ninyong ipitin kasi kailangan din naman kumain ng Filipino," he said.
Informed of news that Filipino fishermen can now freely fish in Scarborough Shoal, called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc by the Philippines, he said: ""Then I would like to thank China for understanding the plight of the Filipino.
Officials have reported over the weekend that Filipinos can now fish in the disputed area without being harassed by Chinese authorities.
Duterte added that the Philippines continues to be allied with Western powers such as the United States.
As soon as he assumes office, he will be ready to pursue multilateral talks about the sea row, he added.
Meanwhile, Filipino fishermen confirmed that they can now freely fish in Scarborough Shoal, a separate report on News To Go on Monday said.
One fisherman said they used to fish at night hoping to avoid the patroling Chinese coast guard, and sometimes would have to flee after they were spotted.
But nowadays they can freely roam the sea and could go back to shore earlier than expected.
The fishermen, meanwhile, said that Bajo de Masinloc can be compared to a swimming pool now since the Chinese took away big rocks underwater.
Four years ago, a standoff occurred in Panatag Shoal between the Chinese Navy and government forces after Philippine forces spotted Chinese fishermen gathering marine species.
Before Philippine forces could make arrests, they were blocked by Chinese vessels. —Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/KG/ALG, GMA News