China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed a decision allowing Philippine fishermen to have access to a disputed shoal, as President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Beijing made proper arrangements about Scarborough Shoal after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed concerns about the matter.
China seized the shoal, from the northern Philippines, located 228 kilometers (123 nautical miles), following 2012 standoff between the sides, preventing Filipino fishermen from working in the area. It was reported that Chinese coast guard ships sometimes used water cannons to drive off Filipino fishermen over protecting Chinese boats.
However, Filipino fishermen said that the Chinese coast guard had allowed them again to fish in the area, where officials said that it was resulted to a warming of bilateral ties.
Hua told reporters at a daily briefing, that the visit marked a “comprehensive improvement of China-Philippines relations. Given the circumstance, regarding the issue President Duterte was highly concerned about, China made proper arrangements on the issue based on the friendship between China and the Philippines,”
Hua made it clear that China would continue to exercise administration over the area as Chinese territory.
Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Duterte’s national security adviser said that there were no agreement between China and Philippines regarding the return of Filipino fishermen to Scarborough Shoal. He also said that the Philippine government would continue to assert its claim over the traditional fishing area.
“There was no expressed agreement but it seems like the traditional rights of our fishermen are being respected,” Esperon told reporters in Manila.
“But the president reiterated that we won in the court, the other leader also reiterated that is historically their territory.”
“Now that there’s no resolution, why allow yourselves to be in that confrontational position when you can talk about economic relations, trade relations?” Esperon said.
“Maybe not now but when we go to another round of talks, we will again assert it,” Esperon said.