‘Even during storms, China harassed Filipinos’

Paterno Esmaquel II
China has harassed Filipino fishermen for 10 times since 2013, the DFA says

'DECENT LIVING.' Crew members of the fishing boats (back) where a former Philippine Marine officer, as well as his protesters, were set to sail for the disputed Scarborough Shoal, load supplies at a pier in Masinloc town, Zambales province, 230 kilometers from Scarborough on May 18, 2012, after he and his protesters decided to postponed their trip to the disputed shoal. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Even in stormy weather, Chinese government ships harassed Filipino fishermen out to make a living in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday, February 25.

China has done this for at least 10 times since 2013, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

Hernandez disclosed these details after the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday, February 24, said Chinese coast guard ships used water cannons to drive Filipino fishermen away.

The water cannon incident happened last January 27, Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the Chinese Coast Guard vessel, with Bow Number 3063, “continuously blew its horn and thereafter doused the fishing vessels with water cannons for several minutes.” This affected two Filipino fishing boats out 14 in the area.

Last year, Chinese civilian maritime law enforcement agency (CMLEA) vessels also harassed Filipino fishermen at least 9 times, the DFA spokesman said.

‘Strong’ protest from PH

In 2013, China drove away Philippine fishing vessels “even during inclement weather conditions.”

When asked what he means by inclement weather, Hernandez described it to Rappler as “stormy.”

He has no information about the types of harassment involved.

These incidents prompted the DFA, on Tuesday morning, to summon the Chinese Embassy’s chargé d’affaires. The DFA did this “to strongly protest the efforts of China to prohibit Filipino fishermen from undertaking fishing activities in the Philippines’ Bajo de Masinloc.”

Hernandez explained that Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag, “is an integral part of the Philippines and over which the Philippines exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.” He added: “Philippine fishing vessels have been routinely, continuously, and peacefully and sustainably fishing in Bajo de Masinloc.”

Hernandez added: “The department likewise strongly protests the acts of harassment and the manner by which these were committed by China to forcefully drive away Philippine fishing vessels from Bajo de Masinloc. Finally, the department vehemently protests the acts of China when its law enforcement vessels drove away Philippine fishing vessels seeking shelter in the Philippines’ Bajo de Masinloc during inclement weather.”

China rejects PH protest

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the Chinese Embassy rejected the Philippines’ protest.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea Islands and their adjacent waters, Huangyan Island included. Chinese government vessels are conducting regular patrols within China’s jurisdiction,” the Chinese Embassy said.

“The Chinese side does not accept the so-called ‘protest’ by the Philippine side. We urge the Philippine side to work with the Chinese side to resolve differences through bilateral consultations and negotiations,” it added.

This protest erupted in the middle of a historic case between the Philippines and China.

On March 30, Manila is set to file a written pleading, called a memorial, that will detail its arguments against Beijing.

In an e-mail to Rappler, the Philippines’ lawyer in its case against China, Paul Reichler, said their legal team “believes that the Philippines has a strong case, both on jurisdiction and on the merits.” Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.