Malacañang on Monday, March 4, said it’s leaving the decision to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on whether to submit a diplomatic protest to stop Chinese vessels from driving away Filipinos from fishing grounds close to the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the South China Sea.
According to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the government had not verified the report of Kalayaan town Mayor Roberto del Mundo about the Chinese denying Filipino fishermen access to three sandbars, which are located between Pag-asa and Zamora Reef.
Last week, Del Mundo said the presence of Chinese boats is affecting their fishing activities.
“It wasn’t that way before,” he said.
“When our fishermen are about to get near Sandbar 3—that is really our fishing ground—a Chinese vessel would immediately come up to us to ward us off so we can’t come closer,” he added.
Need to verify
“I will need to verify that from the secretary of national defense (Delfin Lorenzana),” Panelo responded.
When asked if the Malacañang would file a protest if Del Mundo’s report was proved to be true, Panelo answered: “I will leave it to the secretary of foreign affairs (Teodoro Locsin Jr.). That’s his turf.”
However, Panelo added that it was not correct to drive Filipino fishermen away from sandbars close to Pag-asa.
“[T]hat is our area. We, from the very start, said that’s ours. And our fishermen have been doing that, our fishermen have been fishing there,” Panelo said.
“[N]obody has the right to drive our fishermen away. But we need to validate,” he added.