MANILA – Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III sees no big deal when China said it is allowing Filipinos to fish in Panatag Shoal "out of goodwill."
Sotto said the statement from Beijing's foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang may be the result of poor translation.
"It’s just pride. On both sides. Let it go. Let’s not make a big deal out of it. Malay mo baka hindi maayos ang English translation nila ng Chinese statement," the Senate leader said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Monday confirmed the report that Chinese Coast Guard personnel seized the catch of Filipino fishermen in the shoal in May in violation of an agreement between the two nations allowing Filipinos to fish there.
"We are demanding that the Chinese take steps to stop the coast guard from doing these acts," Roque told reporters.
"That is unacceptable. That is why we informed the Chinese we will not allow fish to be taken from our countrymen."
In a press briefing, Beijing foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the Chinese government is conducting an investigation on the claims of Filipino fishermen that Chinese Coast Guard personnel had seized their catch in exchange for instant noodles and cigarettes.
"China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill. This policy remains unchanged," he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, believes the statement from China is "posturing expressed in bad taste" as no one owns Panatag Shoal which according to an arbitral tribunal is a free fishing zone.
"There couldn't be an act of goodwill from China or the Philippines or Vietnam when nobody owns that 'rock that generates no EEZ' called Scarborough Shoal," he said.
For Lacson, what's important is that China has already committed to investigate the matter. He said it would be more prudent to wait for the results of the investigation by Chinese authorities.