MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night appealed to China to just allow Filipino fishermen to “fish in peace” amid the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Recalling a previous conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Duterte said he told Xi that there is no reason to quarrel since Filipino fishermen simply needed something to eat.
“Ako nga sabi ko nga kay…wala naman tayong away at yung…hayaan lang ninyo yung mga mangingisda kasi ang tao kumakain (I told him that we have no quarrel and just let the fishermen be since they have to eat),” Duterte said in a pre-recorded public address.
Duterte said he knew that China believes that it has sovereignty over virtually all the South China Sea, including the WPS but noted that they are also aware that Filipinos are hungry.
“I told China, I know that it’s yours, according to you, I’ve heard that several times. But you must also have heard of the fact that people are hungry, ang Pilipino ay gutom (Filipinos are hungry) and you are not oblivious to that fact so kindly just allow our fishermen to fish in peace,” he added.
Duterte said he is ready to talk with China in case of any conflict in the disputed territory.
“Since there is no reason for trouble, if there is one brewing, you call our attention and we can talk immediately to solve the problem,” he said.
Last month, Malacañang denied that Duterte has an existing “verbal” fishing agreement with Xi.
“There is no truth to the speculation of a purported ‘verbal fishing agreement’ between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jin Ping, nor that Chinese vessels were encouraged to stay in the West Philippine Sea despite the diplomatic protests and strongly worded statements of Philippine government officials,” Roque said in a press statement.
The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has filed a series of diplomatic protests against China over its incursion into WPS.
‘No need to be rude’
Meanwhile, Duterte thumbed down disrespectful behavior of the Philippines towards China even if the two countries are locked in a maritime dispute.
“China remains to be our benefactor and just because — if I may just add something to the narrative — just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” he said.
Duterte, who previously thanked China for its donated vaccines, noted that the Philippines owed a lot to their East Asian neighbor.
“As a matter of fact, we have many things to thank China for their help in the past and itong mga tulong nila ngayon (the help they’re giving now),” he added.
The Philippines kicked off its vaccination drive on March 1 following the arrival of the initial 600,000 doses of “CoronaVac” Covid-19 vaccines donated by China to the Philippines on Feb. 28.
Prior to his public address, Duterte was inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.
On April 29, Duterte reassured Filipinos that the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the hotly-contested WPS would not be compromised, even if China is the country’s “good friend.”
He insisted that he would maintain a non-combative stance to address the sea dispute with China. (PNA)