MANILA, Philippines — Chinese President Xi Jinping responded well to the proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal into a marine sanctuary, a Palace official said.
Duterte suggested turning the shoal into a sanctuary to Xi when they met during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru.
At a news conference on Monday upon Duterte’s return to the Philippines, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Xi was receptive to Duterte’s idea.
“Sabi niya (Xi), ‘We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment,'” Andanar said.
Turning the shoal into a sanctuary would ban all fishing activities inside the area but not around it.
Both the Philippines and China have been claiming Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales.
The Chinese president has also promised that Filipino fishermen will continue to have access to the disputed shoal in the South China Sea, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.
Xi called on the two countries to explore maritime cooperation as the contested sea would be turned into a “symbol of cooperation.”
Implementing a marine park in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea could be done bilaterally by the Philippines with any number of claimant states.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines marine protected areas as bodies of water that are protected for conservation purposes.
The main objective of establishing a marine protected area is to protect the existing biodiversity and the integrity of the marine ecosystem in the area. — Patricia Lourdes Viray
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