Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — More than two months after the Philippines won its maritime case against China in The Hague, Filipino fishermen are still barred from entering Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal.
But this may no longer be the case.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Tuesday said China has agreed to let Filipino fishermen sail into Scarborough, which the international arbitral tribunal declared as their traditional fishing ground. However, no date was set for when free entry will begin.
In a press briefing, Abella said this is one of the issues raised by President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua last Friday.
“That’s exactly one of the things na inilapit yata ng Presidente [that the President asked]: to treat our people not as enemies, that let us not be adversaries but instead that we’re friends – parang gano’n [something like that] – to allow them to be able to fish,” he said.
Abella said talks between the two countries look optimistic.
“There are maybe kinks in the relationship; there is a positive opening. There is a window of opportunity,” he said. “I don’t know about the exact [date] kung pwede na (for Filipino fishermen to enter Scarborough Shoal), but nailapit ‘yan and sabi naman nila, oo.”
[Translation: “There are maybe kinks in the relationship; there is a positive opening. There is a window of opportunity. I don’t know about the exact date when Filipino fishermen would be allowed to enter Scarborough Shoal, but this issue was already raised to Chinese officials and they have agreed to it.”]
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Duterte on Monday called on Chinese nationals to treat Filipinos as “brothers,” not “enemies,” and to “take note of the plight of our citizens.”
The President, after the four-hour meeting with the Chinese ambassador, also said he wants the Philippines to continue reaching out to China through bilateral talks over the South China Sea dispute.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Sec. Perfecto Yasay told CNN Philippines the President is eyeing a trip to China before the end of the year although no exact dates have been announced.