MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has advised fishermen sailing to the waters off the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, to avoid the area for now even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that it is a common fishing ground.
“Pinapababa muna ‘yung temperature kasi ngayon nga sariwang-sariwa [pa] ang decision,” DFA spokesperson Charles Jose told reporters Wednesday at the sidelines of the second Manila Conference on the South China Sea at the Manila Hotel.
Jose made the statement as China’s Supreme Court ruled that people caught illegally fishing within the territorial waters they claim could be jailed up to a year.
“Sa side natin, maging mahinahon muna kasi alam natin na in-o-occupy ng China ang Scarborough shoal. So, hintayin muna mabigyang linaw kung papaano makakabalik ang mga fishermen natin para hindi sila subject sa harassment,” he said.
Nonetheless, Jose insisted that the July 12 decision issued by the Hague-based court ruled that Scarborough Shoal is a common fishing ground.
He said the plight of fishermen from the coastal villages of Zambales and Pangasinan should be taken up during the talks with China, which will be initiated by the Philippines through special envoy former President Fidel Ramos.
“Importante na makabalik ang ating mangingisda doon sa Scarborough Shoal dahil naapektuhan ang kanilang kabuhayan at livelihood so isa ito sa mga priority issues na dapat i-take up with China when we go into direct talks with them,” he said.
Jose advised all claimant parties, including China, to exercise restraint and avoid making any move that would create tension in the area.
Last July 12, the arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines, as it invalidated so-called nine-dash line, China’s basis for claiming almost the entire South China Sea.
Manila refers to parts of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea. (MNS)