MANILA – Authorities are still verifying reports that certain Chinese forces drove away – with gun fire – Filipino fishermen in Bataan several days ago, Palace officials said Wednesday.
“Kung totoong may banta sa seguridad sa mga mangingisda sa Bataan, hindi mag-aatubili ang Department of Foreign Affairs na gumawa ng diplomatikong hakbang [If there’s really a threat to the security of Bataan fishermen, our DFA will not hesitate to take necessary diplomatic action,” Acting DFA spokesperson Roberpierre Bolivar also said, at a briefing called by Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
Both Abella and Bolivar underscored, however, the need to validate the information before taking action.
If true, it would be a step back from some sort of a modus vivendi that President Duterte had struck months ago with Chinese officials, for Beijing’s vessels to stop harassing Filipino fishermen off the western coast of Luzon – traditional rich fishing grounds that a UN arbitral tribunal had said China did not own and had no right to drive fishermen of any nationality from.
Both Malacañang and DFA said they leave it to the Department of National Defense and the office of the national security adviser to resolve the issues arising from the latest alleged incident.
“What’s important is to verify the circumstances – not just the actual facts but the circumstances behind that. In which case, we refer to DND and NSA,” said Abella.
DFA’s Bolivar weighed in: “if there was a threat to our fishermen then we would undertake the necessary diplomatic actions as far as the DFA is concerned.”