Exclusive: China may give Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough


A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard | BEIJING Tue Oct 18, 2016

China will consider giving Filipino fishermen conditional access to disputed waters in the South China Sea after the presidents of the two countries meet in Beijing this week, two Chinese sources with ties to the leadership said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plans to raise the plight of Filipino fishermen when he meets his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Thursday, a Philippine official told Reuters.

China seized Scarborough Shoal – claimed by Beijing as Huangyan island and by Manila as Panatag – in 2012, denying Philippine fishermen access to its rich fishing grounds.

The seizure formed part of a case the Philippines took to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which in July rejected China’s territorial claims over much of the South China Sea, including its assertion of a 200-mile (320 km) exclusive economic zone around the disputed Spratly Islands.

China immediately declared the ruling “null and void” but said it was time to get talks started again between the countries directly involved in the territorial disputes to reach a peaceful resolution.

Arriving at his hotel in Beijing, Duterte told reporters he expected to achieve “plenty of happiness for my country” during his trip to China.

Asked about the South China Sea dispute, he said: “No, that is not one of the topics on the agenda. It might crop up but it is going to be a soft landing for everyone. No impositions.”

“EVERYBODY CAN GO”

Beijing is now considering making a concession to Duterte, whose rapprochement with China since taking office on June 30 marks an astonishing reversal in recent Philippine foreign policy.

“Everybody can go, but there will be conditions,” one of the Chinese sources who speaks regularly with senior officials told Reuters, referring to Chinese and Filipino fishermen.

Asked what the conditions were, the source said: “The two countries would have to form working groups to iron out details.”

It was unclear, however, if China would agree to joint coastguard patrols.

The sources did not say what, if anything, China might demand from Manila in exchange for the fishing concession.

“It will be a return to the Arroyo days,” the second Chinese source said, referring to the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2010), when fishermen from both countries had access to waters near Scarborough Shoal.

If all goes according to script, fishery cooperation would be one of more than 10 broad framework agreements the two countries would sign during Duterte’s visit, the sources said, without giving further details.

The Philippine foreign ministry said it had “no comment at this time”.

FREE NAVIGATION

China has overlapping claims in the South China Sea with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The United States, along with Japan and other powers, want to ensure Beijing doesn’t interfere with free navigation in the strategic South China Sea, which connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans and through which flows $5 trillion of trade a year.

U.S. Navy ships have conducted “freedom of navigation” operations around artificial islands China has been building in the disputed Spratly Islands, which mostly consist of coral reefs and tidal features in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi did not answer directly, when Reuters asked on Tuesday whether China would offer any concessions to the Philippines on the South China Sea, including fishing rights around Scarborough Shoal.

“China’s position on the South China Sea is clear and consistent. There is no change and there will be no change. This position accords with historical facts and international law,” Wang said at a news conference with his New Zealand counterpart.

“HISTORIC VISIT”

Wang, however, was upbeat about Duterte’s trip.

“This will be a historic visit and a new beginning in China-Philippines relations,” the foreign minister said.

China’s ambassador to Manila, Zhao Jianhua, said last Friday a budding bilateral friendship could boost chances of removing one of their biggest bones of contention in the South China Sea.

But on Sunday, Duterte said he would raise the Hague ruling and vowed not to surrender any sovereignty, comments that will not sit comfortably with Beijing.

Philippine Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio warned that Duterte could be impeached if he gives up the country’s sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, according to Philippine media.

China’s objective is to jointly develop resources in the South China Sea with its neighbors, said Lu Xiang, an international relations expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank. “Disputes with any neighbor are not conducive for China,” he said, when asked what China wanted in exchange for any concession to Duterte.

“We need a better external environment,” Lu said.

(Additional reporting by Natalie Thomas; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: China may give Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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5 Comments on “Exclusive: China may give Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough”

  1. Silver Surfer says:

    “Philippine Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio warned that Duterte could be impeached if he gives up the country’s sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, according to Philippine media.”

    What on earth is a Supreme Court judge doing venturing into politics? He is supposed to be above the fray.

    Says one thing : this so-called “Philippine Supreme Court senior associate justice” – quite a mothful! – Mr Carpio, seems to be more of a corrupt – ie bought – American CIA asset than a real professional judge. Since he has not complied with the strict code of conduct and ethics of a Supreme Court judge, he should be removed as a judge. The standards for a Supreme Court judge is normally exceedingly high. This joker is NO judge. He’s a disgrace. A traitor.

    President Duterte and Manila should forthwith sack this joker from his post.

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  2. Steve says:

    My memory may have lapsed, but according to the PCA ruling No country has sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal. Since, the PH military standoff in 2012, China has taken full control over the Shoal. Even if the PCA award invalidate China’s historical rights, China now has the full administration authority over the Shoal. A Philippine political scientist even said, at some point, China will have to build on the shoal and cannot leave it undeveloped forever. Since, the PH has no sovereignty over Huangyan island, how can President Duterte be impeached.

    After the G20 meeting, it was strongly noted that China was about to start engineering the shoal until President Duterte highly praised President Xi as a great leader and it’s intention of pivoting towards Uncle Han and disaffiliate from Auntie Sam.

    Welcoming the Filipino fishermen back to the shoal is good diplomacy, it’s nothing new, but China need to establish stringent controls with a comprehensive treaty. China has full administrative rights over the Huangyan island and it is a strategic bartering chip.

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  3. Simon says:

    No fishing rights for Filipino fishermen unless there is clear recognition by the Phillipines that Scarborough Shoal is Chinese territory and its fishermen obeys Chinese laws and pays Chinese taxes. Anything less is a concession by China to the illegal PCA.
    Duterte’s olive branch is more of a plea to China because of his fallout with America and needed new friends.

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  4. Fre Okin says:

    “Philippine Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio warned that Duterte could be impeached if he gives up the country’s sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, according to Philippine media.”

    This Pinoy top nationalist should be locked up. He is the most active ring leader who help deceived the Filippinos with a Supreme Court ruling upholding EDCA, an illegal agreement that Duterte already noted that was done without Senate approval. This judge should be educated how democracy works. The judiciary cannot rule on anything that is not even ratified by the Senate. Bypassing the Senate means Philippines is a false democracy.

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    • Sentinel says:

      This means that President Duterte can cancel or abrogate the “Agreement” just by serving notice to the Americans. Just by charging a high airport or naval dock usage fees and the Americans will not be coming any time soon. They prefer Singapore which the government there aspires to be a sixth-“eye”.

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