- Cayetano said the Philippines now ‘co-controls’ Panatag shoal with China
- He claimed the incident significantly improved compared to the time of the Aquino administration
- He also admitted intensive negotiations are needed to take full control of the area
MANILA, Philippines – For Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, the situation in Panatag Shoal has significantly improved compared to the time of the Aquino administration to the point that the Philippines now shares control of the contested island in the West Philippine Sea with China.
“I believe at this point in time, may co-control tayo [we have co-control], because malaya tayong pumupunta [we can go there freely],” said Cayetano on Tuesday.
This was considerably better, according to Cayetano, compared to the last administration when only China has sole control of the fishing ground.
“But definitely when President Duterte came in, it was controlled by the Chinese,” he said.
Cayetano’s statement came just days after videos of an alleged bullying of Filipino fishermen by Chinese Coast Guards was reported in the news.
The incident was quickly downplayed by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who refused to call it a form of harassment, by saying the Filipinos received bottled water and noodles in exchange for the catch the Chinese troops ‘forcibly’ took from them.
But Cayetano insisted this was much better than two years ago and could even be improved in the coming days.
“Do we want total control? Definitely. But the reality is matinding negotiations ang dadaanan natin dito [we have to go through intensive negotiations], ” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself sought to play down the alleged bullying incident by Chinese troops in Panatag shoal by calling it a mere ‘barter trade’.