PRESIDENT Rodrigo Roa Duterte is set to declare the lagoon in Panatag Shoal a marine sanctuary area.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. disclosed that the President will sign an executive order declaring a lagoon in the Panatag Shoal, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, a “no-fishing zone” for both Filipino and Chinese fishermen.
This “unilateral declaration” has been relayed to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the two leaders’ bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting, according to Cabinet officials present during the APEC Media Press Conference with the Philippine media delegation.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said that President Xi hopes to create something favorable out of this.
“We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment. Yun ang sinabi niya (President Xi) pagkatapos mabanggit ni Presidente Duterte yung kanyang unilateral declaration na gawing marine sanctuary,” Andanar said quoting the Chinese leader.
The Panatag Shoal is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino fishermen. It was virtually off-limits to local fishermen who complained of harassment by the Chinese Coast Guard.
The situation soon changed after President Duterte brought the sorry plight of Filipino fishermen before his Chinese counterpart during his successful state visit to China in October.
Filipino fishermen can now access and fish at Panatag Shoal without experiencing harassment or being shooed away.
The two Asian leaders seem to hit it off well resulting in renewed friendship between the Philippines and China, Secretary Ramon Lopez explained.
“I guess on a personal level as well as at an official level, nagkalapit talaga ang ating dalawang leaders between Philippines and China. With that renewed friendship, it really opened up a lot of opportunities. Now, we are talking of economic cooperation na dati hindi masyadong pinag-uusapan,” Secretary Lopez underscored.
Meanwhile, President Duterte held his first bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin where the latter praised the former for his “firm” character.
Secretary Lopez added, “Na-appreciate niya (Putin) yung stance, yung pagiging firm leader ni President Duterte. Parang, in a way, parang pinuri niya … na may respect, may dignity.”
Philippines and Russia trade relations are expected to increase especially with the forthcoming visit of the President to Russia.
These include opening of opportunities in areas such as agriculture, energy, and infrastructure, machine engineering, hardware, modernizing industrial machineries, railways and light transport system, tourism and cultural development.