China treating Duterte admin as ‘pushover’ amid WPS issues — Zarate

MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate asked President Rodrigo Duterte to deploy the Philippine Coast Guard to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and escort Filipino fishermen in the area, saying China is treating the Duterte administration as a “pushover.”

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“China is apparently treating the Duterte administration as a pushover by doing what they want in Bajo de Masinloc and the rest of the West Philippine Sea without nary a whimper from [President Rodrigo] Duterte,” said Zarate on Wednesday.

“We call on the Duterte administration to send the Philippine Coast Guard, not just for momentary drills, but more importantly to accompany or escort our hapless fisherfolk at Bajo de Masinloc and in the other areas where we have valid claims in the West Philippine Sea,” Zarate said in a statement.

“We have to show China that we are serious in defending our people as well as our territory. Our officials should always assert our independence, instead of them acting as apologists for China, who apparently now treat the Philippines as her vassal state,” he added.

More than 1,500 fishermen in Masinloc town in Zambales have totally deserted the contested Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.

The shoal is a triangle-shaped chain of reefs and islands around a 150-kilometer wide lagoon which for decades served as the traditional fishing ground for fishermen in Masinloc.

“We are not saying that we declare war on China. But what we need is for President Duterte to stand up for our fisherfolk and our territory,” Zarate said.

“We have already suggested in the past the increasing patrols of our seas, among others. One thing is clear though, the government must do something now to stop this invasion of China,” he added.

Zarate likewise called on the international community to step in and pressure the United States and China to demilitarize and de-escalate the tension in the contested waters.

Malacañang has denied that there was a “verbal fishing agreement” between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow the Chinese to fish in Philippine waters.

/MUF

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