Xi Jinping promises mechanism to avoid harassment of fishermen in South China Sea – Zubiri

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — Chinese President Xi Jinping promised leaders of the Philippines' Congress that he will push for a "maritime mechanism" that ensures fishermen will not be harassed in the disputed South China Sea.

This, according to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who attended a meeting with the Chinese President on Wednesday, along with Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other government officials.

Zubiri said Xi envisions a mechanism that will serve as "sort of a liaison between the Philippine government and the Chinese government to push for the cooperation and friendship."

"Kung meron man problema (If there is any problem), problems between merchant vessels from the Philippines and China, there is an automatic mechanism, liaison to resolve it immediately para walang tension. Yan ang pinangako niya sa dalawang liderato ng kongreso (so there will be no tension. That's what he promised the two Congress leaderships)," Zubiri said.

"So 'yung mga fishermen na pupunta doon di mahaharass (So the fishermen who will go there will not be harassed)," he added.

Tensions rose between the Philippines and China early this year after reports that members of the Chinese Coast Guard were taking Filipino fishermen's catch in Scarborough Shoal. China said these were isolated incidents and erring coast guards would be punished.

READ: Carpio pushes for new case vs. China over alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen

Also known as Panatag Shoal, Scarborough is one of the islets and reefs in the South China Sea that lie within the country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The July 2016 arbitration ruling states the waters off Scarborough is a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen.

China refuses to acknowledge the landmark ruling and continues to claim the South China Sea in its entirety. President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to bring this up with China within his term.

Then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in June said the Philippines and China have entered into a tentative fishing agreement, but did not elaborate on the details.