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Kung may pagkakataon: Duterte to raise fishermen’s woes directly to Xi Jinping

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte is planning raise directly the issue of Chinese Coast Guard personnel reportedly bullying Filipino fishermen in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made this remark two days after meeting three fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales who appealed to the government to discourage Chinese Coast Guard personnel from taking their catch in exchange for water, noodles, and cigarettes.

“Kung may pagkakataon siguro eh, ididiretso na ni Presidente ‘yan kay President Xi ‘no dahil talaga namang hindi pupuwedeng inaapi ang ating mga kababayan (If given the chance, the President will go straight to President Xi because we cannot allow our citizens to be abused),” Roque said in a radio interview.

Roque said Duterte is currently awaiting results of the investigation but noted that he is not merely relying on China’s promise of friendly arrangements in relation to sea disputes.

“Hindi na po umasa ang Presidente sa diplomatic channels, at siya na po mismo ang nakipag-usap sa Ambassador(The President is not only relying on diplomatic channels, he himself has spoken to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua),” Roque said.

On Tuesday, Duterte spoke with Zhao during the commemoration of the country’s 120th Independence Day at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite.

Zhao earlier assured that the Chinese government is investigating the matter and will discipline erring personnel in accordance with their own regulations.

Roque said that in 2016, Duterte and and Xi have agreed on a truce on sea disputes to regain fishing rights for Filipinos.

“Nagkaroon po kasi talaga ng kasunduan ang Presidente at si President Xi na magkakaroon ng kalayaan ng pangingisda diyan (The President and President Xi have an agreement to allow fishing rights there),” Roque said.