Upon his return to the country from a three-day state visit to China where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Marcos Jr. gleefully reported the good news: Beijing had agreed to allow Filipinos to their traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea, that China will not stop our fishermen from fishing.
This, after President Xi had assured Marcos he was willing to “find a solution” and a “compromise” on the contentious issue of whether Filipino fishermen can be allowed to pursue their livelihood in that part of the South China Sea which China claims it owns on the basis of a mythical “nine-dash-line” that covers practically the whole of the vital sealane.
Here’s Marcos speaking: “They 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.”
It’s not that simple, it turns out.
The problem is that Xi did not categorically set any definite timetable for finding a solution or working out a compromise on the issue.
Was the open-ended pledge meant solely to placate Manila and keep us from complaining constantly about Chinese incursions in the area we consider part of our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone?
A flurry of diplomatic protests and notes verbales addressed to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs apparently have fallen on deaf ears, or perhaps even sent straight to the trash bin, we really don’t know.
What we know is that the Chinese Coast Guard has time and again driven away Filipino fishing boats trying to enter areas we claim as part of our EEZ.
In the latest incident only days after Marcos reported the ‘good news’ to media, fishermen from Puerto Princesa in Palawan were fishing at Ayungin on January 9 onboard their boat Ken-Ken, when a CCG ship with bow No. 5204 approached the area.
The PCG said “the vessel maneuvered toward the fishing boat at a distance of approximately 800 yards (730 meters) and launched a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB). The CCG personnel onboard the RHIB gestured [to] the Filipino fishermen to leave the area, coupled with verbal warnings in Chinese using a megaphone while waving a Chinese flag.”
China Coast Guard told the fishermen to get out of Ayungin or Second Thomas.
The video showed CCG 5204 still following Ken-Ken for some time, even after the fishing boat had left the shoal.
That’s naked gunboat diplomacy by Beijing, by any standard.
This incident that took place right after Chinese President Xi Jinping assured our president that China will not stop our fishermen from fishing in disputed waters and would “find a solution and a compromise” can only mean two things:
One, that Xi does not know what his military is doing on the ground – or at sea.
And two, he really did not mean what he told Marcos.
You be the judge.