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No agreement on return of PH fishers to Panatag

A disagreement in the use of words stands in the way of Filipino fishermen regaining access to their traditional fishing grounds at Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque has revealed that there was no written agreement signed by the Philippines and China in connection with the fishing rights over Scarborough Shoal because Filipinos headed by President Duterte have rejected the use of words “permit” or “allow” in order for Filipino fishermen to return to their Scarborough Shoal fishing grounds which the Philippines says are part of its territorial claims.

“I have a source who said that there was disagreement as to the language to be used in the written agreement.

However, there was already an agreement in principle for our fishermen to fish in the area,” said Roque, an opposition solon who was invited by Duterte to join his recent state visit to China.

Reporting after the visit, Duterte said Filipino fisherfolk will only have to wait for a few more days to be able to return to the Scarborough fishing grounds.

Filipinos who have made the area the source of catch have been driven away by Chinese naval patrols from the disputed territory in the past several years now as China flexed its muscles to support its claim over West Philippine Sea areas.

Roque, a minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that while Duterte held a closed door dialogue with Chinese President Xi Jingping, certain details of his talks with Prime Minister Li Kequiang was revealed.

“We have our disagreement over the West Philippine Sea, I come here not to quarrel about it but I am saying that we need to resolve this soon,” Roque quoted Duterte as saying. (Ben R. Rosario)