MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine president's office said on Monday that Chinese seizures of fish caught by Philippine fishing boats near a disputed sandbank are unacceptable, and he introduced three fishermen who described their experiences. 19659006] Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said he and Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano raised the incidents with the Chinese ambassador to Manila, who assured them that Chinese coast guard personnel would be punished if an investigation determines that the accusations are correct.
Recent incidents at Scarborough Shoal have raised new criticism after a television network interviewed fishermen and aired a video of the alleged confiscations. China has raised alarm with its recent actions to strengthen its radical territorial claims in the South China Sea, including the installation of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles on its newly built islands.
Incidents have increased pressure on President Rodrigo The Duterte government will take a stronger stance towards China's behavior in the disputed waters. Since its inauguration, Duterte has forged closer ties with China and avoided criticizing it strongly in public.
Dozens of Filipino fishermen and left-wing activists protested at the Chinese consulate on Monday with signs saying "I can not eat today, China stole our catch" and "I can not fish in our own seas". Some brought fish to symbolize what they called "theft" and "extortion" of China at sea.
"What they did to our fishermen … shows that they have reclaimed the area and not only that they stole the catches of fishermen who were supposed to feed their families that day, their family went hungry for that," he said. the leader of the protest Roberto Aleroza.
Roque said that the government took action to prevent a repetition of Chinese actions. "The Chinese coast guard should not take a kilo and we are not allowing it," he said, adding that Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that Filipinos should be able to fish freely in Scarborough, which was captured by China. in 2012.
Roque, however, suggested that the Chinese actions were not an act of harassment and were only "a dent" that would not affect the friendly relations between China and the Philippines. Chinese coast guard personnel sometimes gave noodles, cigarettes and water to Filipino fishermen in exchange for the fish, he said.
Rommel Sihuela, one of three fishermen presented by Roque at a press conference at the presidential palace on Monday, said Chinese Coast Guard personnel boarded Filipino fishing boats in Scarborough and took some of their best catch against their Will. "They went on board, then they were served in our fish containers," he said. "We simply leave them because they can scare us away again if we do not allow them to take the fish."
In December, Chinese armed personnel seized the fishing equipment of Filipino fishermen, he said.
Two Filipino officials told The Associated on Friday that the Philippines protested the seizures of fish caught by Filipinos in Scarborough at a meeting in Manila in February. Chinese officials at the meeting "took note" of the concerns and promised to investigate the incidents, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Antonio Carpio, a senior associate justice of the Supreme Court who has conducted extensive studies on territorial disputes, said the Philippines could file a new case against China for violating a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated the country's extensive land claims. Beijing in the South China Sea. The decision, which China ignored, said China violated the rights of Filipinos by preventing them from fishing in Scarborough, a traditional Asian fishing area.
Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Bullit Marquez contributed to this report.  Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.