PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte aims to forge a provisional fishing agreement with the Chinese government ahead of his scheduled trip to China this year to end the plight of Filipino fishermen who have been barred from fishing at Scarborough Shoal and other areas claimed by the Philippines’ giant neighbor.
“We should create an environment under which we can formally move forward the bilateral negotiations with China. We would like China to agree with a provisional agreement that would allow our fishermen to go back to our traditional fishing grounds. Under the arbitral ruling, they have no right to drive them out. We want to make sure that China would agree until we move forward with the permanent solution,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told lawmakers in defending the P16.3 billion DFA budget under the P3.35 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Yasay responded to the questions of Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque who pressed the government about its actions on the South China Sea issue.
The DFA secretary said the Duterte administration “must have target agreements that will implement implementation of the fishing rights.”
“We can’t put a timetable...We are even thinking about the possibility in the future for the President to make the visit to China. But we would hope that before this visit can be made, this provisional arrangements can be done with the end in view of beginning formal talks for the resolution of this dispute,” Yasay said.
During Monday’s National Heroes’ Day celebration attended by members of the diplomatic corps, including Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, President Duterte appealed to China to treat Filipinos as brothers, not enemies and allow Filipino fishermen be allowed to fish in the country’s territory.
Yasay reiterated that President Duterte will continue to find peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“We will not be engaging China in any shooting war in this particular instance. We will exercise maximum tolerance, restraint and sobriety for this purpose. Our task at this point is to make sure that the diplomatic processes that we will be embarking and continue to embark (on) will result in the kind of objectives we would like to achieve,” said Yasay.