MANILA, Philippines — Beijing refused to comment on the recent proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal into a marine sanctuary.
This is contrary to the recent statement of Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar that Chinese President Xi Jinping was receptive to Duterte’s idea.
When asked about China’s response to the president’s plan to declare the disputed shoal a lagoon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang insisted that Beijing’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over the shoal will not change.
“China and the Philippines have reached an agreement on coming back to the track of dialogue and consultation for the settlement of the South China Sea issue,” Geng said in a press briefing Tuesday.
Declaring the disputed Panatag Shoal in the South China Sea a maritime sanctuary would make it off-limits to all fishermen.
All fishing activities inside the area will be banned but not around it.
“The Chinese side has also made proper arrangements for fishing activities by the Philippine fishermen in waters near Huangyan Dao in the interests of bilateral friendship,” Geng said.
A statement earlier released by the PCO said that Xi vowed that Filipino fishermen will continue to have free access to the disputed shoal, which is their traditional fishing grounds.
China hopes that the two countries will enhance cooperation to turn the South China Sea dispute into a “positive factor for friendship and cooperation.”
Both the Philippines and China have been claiming Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales..
Tags: Bajo de Masinloc, China, Duterte, international law, marine park, marine preserve, Marine Sanctuary, no fishing area, Panatag, Philippines, sanctuary, Scarborough, South China Sea maritime sanctuary