Can fishermen go to Panatag Shoal? Palace says ‘proceed with caution’

  • Malacañang says fishermen are free to go to the Panatag Shoal but are advised to ‘proceed with caution’
  • Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella says there are no statements that bars them from going there specifically
  • This comes after the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling that China has no legal basis in claiming historic rights over the West Philippine Sea

Malacañang said that fishermen situated in parts of the previously contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) are not blocked from entering the fishing grounds of Panatag Shoal but are advised to “proceed with care.”

“There are no statements preventing them specifically,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella was quoted in a GMA News Online story.

“We’re still saying that the fishermen are not prevented, however, they are cautioned to proceed with care,” he also said.

The article said that the municipality of Masinloc told the fishermen to keep away from the Panatag Shoal until advised by the national government.

This comes after the Philippines’ victory in the case against China over the disputed territory. China, however, refused to honor the decision; calling it a “farce” and even accusing the Philippines of bribing the justices of the United Nations-backed tribunal.

“Regarding government actions, I think we just need to wait for the official statement but the fishermen are not prevented from going from our side,” Abella said in an ABS-CBN article.

“We’re not keeping our cards close to our chest. We’re really thinking through the right response but the initial statement should be sometime after DFA Secretary Yasay comes back from Mongolia.”

After the ruling, the new administration under President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing to resume bilateral talks with China.

Former President Fidel Ramos was reportedly chosen by Duterte to be the special envoy to China. But the 88-year-old former chief executive, who is known for close ties with China, said he is too old for the assignment and he has other projects set such as promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Reacting to this, Abella said: “I suppose there may be other ways of doing it, diplomatic channels.”