Withdraw ships from West Philippine Sea to show good faith in talks offer
January 5, 2023 at 6:17 pm, No comments
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez today urged China to withdraw all its ships from the West Philippine Sea to show its good faith in its offer to resolve territorial disputes with the Philippines in the area.
“President Xi Jinping should recall all those ships, whether military, Coast Guard, militia, or civilian so our Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard can freely conduct patrols and our fisherfolk can do fishing activities without fear of harassment,” he said.
Rodriguez was reacting to Chinese media reports that the Chinese leader has told visiting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that Beijing is willing to resume talks on oil and gas exploration and resolve maritime issues in a cordial manner.
For his part, President Marcos said he received President Xi’s promise for a compromise and solution that could allow Filipino fishermen to operate in their historic fishing grounds.
“We also discussed what we can do to move forward, to avoid any possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have,” the Philippine leader said.
Rodriguez has been a consistent critic of Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea and Beijing’s refusal to recognize a 2016 ruling by an international arbitral tribunal recognizing areas the Philippines claims as part of its territory and invalidating China’s ownership of almost all of the vast South China Sea that includes the WPS.
Days before President Marcos flew to Beiing, the Philippine military reported a “swarming” of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
Rodriguez welcomed President Xi’s statement, saying, “It’s a good starting point for talks.”
However, he said China should immediately allow Filipino fishermen to fish in Scarborough or Panatag Shoal (locally known as Bajo de Masinloc), which is their traditional fishing ground.
“The Chinese Coast Guard should remove its presence there and should not chase away our countrymen. That area is part of our 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” he said.
Scarborough is about 120 miles off Pangasinan and Zambales.
As for oil and gas exploration, Rodriguez said the Philippine government “could immediately allow it in areas near Palawan, like Recto Bank, which is also part of our EEZ, provided that China respects our territorial rights there.”
“We could engage Chinese companies as contractors,” he said.
He said the government has stopped a local company from doing exploration activities in Recto Bank to avoid aggravating its territorial dispute with China.
Before stepping down in June last year, then President Duterte ended talks with Beijing due to what then Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Tocsin Jr. described as unresolved sovereignty and territorial issues. (PR)