By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Win Gatchalian

“Hindi naman talaga kilala itong body of water na ito for fishing kasi ang description niyan sa mga mapa, dangerous grounds kasi mabato ‘yan.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this on Tuesday as he justified the statement made by President Rodrigo Duterte that he cannot confront China unless if the country starts to drill for resources in the West Philippine Sea.

“Although dahil sa laki nga po nyan, may mga areas talaga na renowned for fishing gaya ng Scarborough Shoal. Pero ang Scarborough Shoal po ay hiwalay sa Kalayaan Group of Islands na pinagaawayan. So we cannot make a conclusion na yung area talaga is rich in fisheries,” he added during a media briefing.

Furthermore, Roque said Filipinos can still fish in the disputed islands despite the presence of Chinese vessels.

“At bagamat merong mga barko doon ng Tsina, hindi po sila pinipigilan ngayon. Wala pa naman pong report na pinagbabawalan ang ating mga kababayan na mangisda,” he added.

The tension rose anew over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels along Julian Felipe Reef, prompting the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file diplomatic protests against China.

The National Task Force on West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) earlier reported the presence of six Chinese warships and 240 militia vessels over Kalayaan, Palawan and in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The task force has also estimated that a total of 240,000 kilograms of fish will be illegally taken over the continued presence of the vessels.

Moreover, the DFA also called on Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to discuss the growing concerns of spotted vessels along Julian Felipe Reef.

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