Masinloc mayor asks Duterte to protect fishermen in Scarborough
Mayor Arsenia Lim of Masinloc, Zambales appealed on Thursday to President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure protection of their fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.
Lim told reporters in Malacanang their fishermen should be allowed to freely fish in Scarborough or Panatag Shoal without Chinese "bullying."
"(T)hat's what we're asking to our beloved president, for them to fish without being bullied and in times when the wind is strong, that they be allowed to take refuge in the lagoon," she said.
At least three fishermen from Masinloc have disclosed some members of the Chinese Coast Guard had seized some of their fish catch in Scarborough in exchange for some noodles, cigarettes or fresh water.
Lim likened the Chinese coast guards getting fish catch to "toll fee."
"There seemed a passway. There's tollway at the middle of the sea," she said.
Lim insisted that Scarborough Shoal belongs to the Philippines as this has been the traditional fishing ground of their fishermen.
There are around 5,000 fishermen from Masinloc.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a press briefing, denied he called seizures of fish catch by Filipinos in exchange for some goods from Chinese coast guards as barter.
Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua earlier said based on the initial report, what happened was barter.
Zhao added investigation has been ongoing.
Roque reiterated that the action of the Chinese coast guards was "fish thievery" or "extortion."
"I have never really addressed it as barter, but there's a possibility given the language barrier that they consider it as a barter but from our point of view it is not," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS