By Genalyn D. Kabiling
China has assured the Philippines that it has no policy of harassing Filipino fishermen at Panatag or Scarborough Shoal and has started an investigation into the incident involving some of its Coast Guard personnel.
The assurance was relayed by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque amid reports some Chinese Coast Guard personnel have taken away the prime catch of Filipino fishermen at Panatag.
Roque has raised the Scarborough incident to the Chinese envoy and pressed the need for Beijing to discipline some erring Coast Guard personnel.
“I was assured by the Ambassador that this is not the policy of China. Beijing has started an investigation,” Roque said in Filipino during a Palace press briefing.
“If the allegations of the fisherman are proven, there will be penalties that will be imposed on the Chinese Coast Guard,” said Roque, who brought along three fishermen from Mansinloc, Zambales who complained about the Chinese Coast Guard’s actions in the press conference.
One of them, Romel Cejuela, said China still holds the “power” over Panatag even though Filipinos have regained access to the fishing ground.
Cejuela said China has deployed Coast Guard ships in the shoal but there was not a single vessel from its Philippine counterpart.
“Medyo mabigat sa kalooban mo pero pilit mong tanggapin yun dahil sila ang may power ngayon dyan,” Cejuela said when asked about the Chinese Coast Guard’s seizure of their catch.
“Nandoon sila. Kumbaga, sila ang nakabantay diyan ganoon, eh wala naman tayong…ang Pilipinas, wala namang vessel naka-antabay diyan…’Yung barko nila, iyon ang nakikita namin doon. Ibig sabihin, parang sila pa ngayon ang may hawak,” he added.
Roque admitted that he does not consider the incident as harassment but found the situation unacceptable.
He said the government would not take the matter sitting down, and pledged to take steps to prevent the incident from happening again. Not a single kilo of fish should be taken away from Filipino fishermen who are just making a living, according to Roque.