MANILA: The Philippines on Monday demanded that China stop confiscating the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed South China Sea, calling the practice “unacceptable”, reports AFP.
The remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman were a rare public rebuke from Manila, which has taken a non-confrontational approach with Beijing over the resource-rich waterway.China controls several reefs in the sea including Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing seized from Manila in 2012 and is just 230 kilometres (143 miles) from the main Philippine island of Luzon.
China claims almost the entire sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, despite competing partial claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque on Monday confirmed a report that Chinese Coast Guard personnel seized the catch of Filipino fishermen in the shoal in May in violation of an agreement between the two nations allowing Filipinos to fish there.
“We are demanding that the Chinese take steps to stop the coast guard from doing these acts,” Roque told reporters.
“That is unacceptable. That is why we informed the Chinese we will not allow fish to be taken from our countrymen.”
The Chinese foreign ministry said it was investigating the reports and authorities will “seriously” deal with them if they are confirmed.“Out of friendship, China has made proper arrangements for Filipino fishermen,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.
“The Chinese coast guard is monitoring relevant waters to ensure peace and order in the area, and also offers humanitarian assistance to the Philippines fishermen,” Geng said.
“The Chinese coast guard always abides by the law.”