Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday said the Philippines could use video of the Chinese Coast Guard apparently raiding Filipino fishermen’s catch in Scarborough Shoal, inside the country’s exclusive economic zone, to bring another complaint before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The PCA had already ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016 after finding that Beijing’s claims in the area were “excessive.”
“We can bring another case against China for not abiding with the ruling,” Carpio told reporters after speaking at a program marking the Supreme Court’s 117th anniversary.
Carpio, part of the team that argued the Philippines’ case before the PCA, said Manila could seek damages for economic losses suffered by Filipino fishermen from Beijing for violating the arbitral ruling.
However, Malacañang said it would first authenticate video captured by GMA News that showed the Chinese asking for fish from Filipino fishermen before filing a diplomatic protest.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said he had asked GMA to authenticate the video because it was “inconclusive.”
“If established, it’s a ground for protest. Didn’t actually see any bullying,” Roque said in a text message.
GMA News reported Thursday that fishermen in the area complained that the Chinese Coast Guard were in the habit of sorting through their catch and taking the best without their permission.
In the report, cameras stowed on one of the boats showed the Chinese asking for fish, then leaving when fishermen told them they had not caught any.
Roque said he would ask the fishermen to submit their written statement to prove that they were bullied or that their catch was confiscated.
Former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, said President Rodrigo Duterte might need a fuller briefing from his people because of how he reacts to developments in the West Philippine Sea.
“The most recent illustration was the harassment of Philippine troops in Ayungin Shoal, of which the President had no knowledge,” Del Rosario said.
“Another example attributed to the absence of a less than full briefing appears to be the loss of effective control of Sandy Cay by the Philippines, which was not given much importance,” he said.
Del Rosario said if China acquires sovereignty over Sandy Cay, it could claim Subi Reef as part of the territorial sea of Sandy Cay.
“This would aid in legitimizing China’s claim over Subi Reef, and would significantly reduce the territorial sea of Pag-asa Island,” he said.
In Congress, lawmakers denounced the Chinese for endangering the lives of Filipino fishermen by stealing their catch.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, an administration ally, assailed what he described as “kotong Coast Guard” of China.
“If it cannot feed its own troops patrolling contested areas in the West Philippine Sea, how can it assume a position of leadership in a family of nations,” Albano said.
Magdalo Party-Iist Rep. Gary Alejano, member of the opposition bloc, echoed Albano’s view, saying “the Chinese Coast Guard is acting much like pirates bypassing small Filipino fishermen and stealing their catch.”
“If the Chinese consider the Philippines as a friend, they will not prey on small helpless Filipino fishermen? China does not seem to treat us as a sovereign equal anymore,” Alejano said.
“Trust is earned and we have to see that they are doing something,” he added.
Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting, another administration ally, said the recent issue on China must be raised through proper diplomatic channels.
“The very presence of Chinese Coast Guard elements in our Exclusive Economic Zone is already a challenge to our sovereignty.
“And these incidents are a cause for concern. However, we must also capitalize on the good diplomatic relations with the Chinese government which [President Duterte] has worked hard on. So these incidents must be raised through these proper diplomatic channels,” Tambunting said.