Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque yesterday refused to categorize as “harassment” the reported seizure by Chinese Coast Guard personnel of the catch of Filipino fishermen on Scarborough Shoal.
“What’s harassment was what happened during the time of then President (Noynoy) Aquino when (Filipinos) were subjected to water cannon (bombardment) and ramming,” said Roque in a Malacañang press briefing.
Roque was reacting to the threat made by former solicitor general Florin Hilbay that they are filing a complaint against the alleged harassment by the Chinese of Filipino fishermen in disputed waters.
The palace official said that granting that the Chinese had been taking fish from Filipinos, the reports said what were taken were “small compared to the total catch.”
Roque said the Duterte administration expects China to look into the complaint against its coast guard personnel.
On Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua made the assurance that their government in investigating the alleged taking of fish from Filipinos by the Chinese coast guard.
“There will be discipline in accordance with our own regulations,” Zhao Jianhua told reporters.
Zhao said that if the reports are true, his government will make sure to regulate the “bad apples” in their coast guard.
“If we have bad apples, you know what I’m going to do, I’m going to throw (them) into the South China Sea and feed the fish,” Zhao said.
On Monday, the three fishermen — Rommel Sihuela, Delfin Igana and Jurie Drio — joined Roque in a press briefing at Malacañang where they narrated how the Chinese Coast Guards took their fish.
Still, Zhao reiterated that “friendly arrangements” between the Philippines and China currently allow Filipino fishermen to fish, noting that “it will not be changed.”
“They can go back and fish there freely so we will check and if there is any misconduct conducted by the Chinese Coast Guards, those individuals will be punished and the rules will be there,” Zhao said.
He further said that as a rule, their government will not allow Chinese Coast Guards “to do anything that is harmful to the Filipino fishermen.”