Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Meets China’s President Xi Jinping at the APEC cnference in peru, November 19, 2016. Philippines Office of the President photo
Updated 11:16 AM PHT Mon, November 21, 2016
(CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to sign an Executive Order declaring the lagoon in Scarborough Shoal a marine sanctuary and “no-fishing zone,” a cabinet official said.
In a statement, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said that Pres. Duterte will sign an E.O. making the lagoon in the heavily-contested shoal a “marine sanctuary.” Duterte has relayed the idea to Chinese president Xi Jinping, who is said to be open to the idea.
The E.O. is meant to preserve the lagoon’s status as a spawning ground for young fish. It will bar both Chinese and Filipino fishermen from fishing within the lagoon. However, the areas surrounding it will remain open to fisherman from both sides.
Cabinet officials said that Duterte informed Chinese President Xi Jinping of the ‘unilateral decision’ during their meeting at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Peru.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the Chinese President responded positively to the proposal. Andanar quoted Xi, saying “We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment. Yun ang sinabi niya.”
[Translation: President Xi said ‘We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment. ‘]
The shoal was traditionally a rich fishing ground for Filipino fishermen but tensions arose after Chinese coast guards prohibited Filipino vessels from fishing near the shoal.
In July, the Philippines won a maritime arbitration case in the Hague stating that China’s claim of the shoal encroached into the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This ruling was largely unheeded by China, which chose to ignore the decision.
Recently, however, tensions have eased after President Duterte’s state visit to strengthen ties with China. Following the visit, China eased its patrol of the shoal and allowed Filipino vessels to fish in the area.
Tags: APEC, Bajo de Masinloc, China, Duterte, EEZ, environmental, exclusive economic zone, Filipino fishermen, marine park, marine protected area, Panatag Shoal, Peru, Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, Putin, Scarborough Shoal, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea, Xi Jinping, Zambales