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Duterte to declare Panatag lagoon a ‘no fishing’ marine sanctuary - Esperon

Fishermen in Infanta, Pangasinan prepare to sail for Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal after regaining access to the disputed territory. (Reuters file)
The online news portal of TV5

LIMA, Peru -- President Rodrigo Duterte is set to declare the lagoon of disputed Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough, a marine sanctuary that will be a “no fishing zone” to both Filipino and Chinese fishermen, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had been informed of Duterte’s planned “unilateral declaration” during their bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit, Cabinet members told a press conference in Lima, Peru.

Recounting Xi's response to Duterte’s plan, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said: “‘We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment.’ ‘Yun ang sinabi niya (President Xi) pagkatapos mabanggit ni Presidente Duterte ‘yung kanyang unilateral declaration na gawing (That is what he said after President Duterte mentioned the unilateral declaration to create the) marine sanctuary.”

Over the past few years and even after the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in the territorial dispute, Chinese coast guard vessels have kept Filipinos from Panatag, which is a traditional fishing ground.

But following Duterte’s recent visit to China, Filipinos have been allowed to fish Panatag again, although Chinese vessels remain in the area.

Aside from Panatag, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the apparent closeness of Duterte and Xi, both on “a personal level as well as at an official level,” had “opened up a lot of opportunities. Now, we are talking of economic cooperation na dati hindi masyadong pinag-uusapan (which was never discussed much before).”

Duterte also met Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time.

Lopez said Putin “appreciated” Duterte’s “firm ledership.”

Duterte has said he also wants to visit Russia and foster closer relationships the way he has with China.