SUBIC, ZAMBALES—Local fishermen who frequent the disputed Scarborough Shoal said President Duterte should not let China set the conditions for granting Filipinos access to their traditional fishing ground.
Mr. Duterte must set the rules when he defends Filipino fishermen during his state visit to China, said Efren Medrano, chair of the Lanao-Bangan Fishermen’s Association in the capital town of Iba.
Citing reports that China is poised to give Filipino fishermen “conditional” access to disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea, Medrano said, “The shoal belongs to Filipinos.”
The shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, is 260 kilometers from Zambales province.
Tirso Atiga, 44, president of Calapandayan Fishermen’s Multipurpose Cooperative said an alliance with China would be risky for Filipinos.
“We don’t know what China will do with our territories if we allow them to set the conditions that Filipinos must follow,” Atiga said.
Before leaving for China, Mr. Duterte said he had no plans of raising the issue of Scarborough Shoal during his meeting with Chinese President, Xi Jinping.
But Mr. Duterte also said he would ask China to allow Filipinos to fish in the shoal.
“We are on wait-and-see status. All we can do is hope that Filipino fishermen will be allowed to return to the shoal after our President’s visit to China,” Medrano said.
Jun Buenaventura, who finances fishing trips to the shoal, said President Duterte should demand that China accept the recent Hague court ruling favoring the Philippines.
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated Beijing’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea.
The court said fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal and China had interfered by restricting access.
Despite the uncertainty of the fishermen’s plight, Buenaventura said they remained hopeful the Philippine government could protect Filipinos from the Chinese Coast Guard’s aggression in the West