China will not stop Filipino fishermen from fishing despite tensions in the West Philippine Sea, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said Sunday, citing an agreement between Manila and Beijing.
"Actually, I don't know how the word partnership started to be used. It's really an agreement that you will...that China will not stop our fishermen from fishing," Marcos told reporters while en route to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The President was responding to a question regarding resigned National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos' statement last week that the government is looking into China's proposed partnership with Philippine fishing villages.
"They (China) will continue to allow our fishermen to fish in the fishing grounds that they have been to, they have used for many generations. That’s it. It's that simple," Marcos said.
China is claiming the entire South China Sea, including the part Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea, even if the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration already junked such an expansive claim under a July 2016 ruling.
The same 2016 court decision also declared that Panatag shoal is a common fishing ground for countries, outlawed China's aggression against Philippine vessels, including preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, and upheld that the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are all within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.
China, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.
During Marcos' three-day visit to China from January 3 to 5, he raised the plight of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea in his bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping.
Marcos said Xi "promised that we would find a compromise and find a solution that will be beneficial so that our fishermen might be able to fish again in their natural fishing grounds."
Also during Marcos' state visit to Beijing, the two countries signed an agreement for the establishment of a communication mechanism on maritime issues between the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. —KBK, GMA Integrated News