Philippines fishermen granted island access
China confirmed on Monday that Philippine fishermen are allowed access to Huangyan Island as “an appropriate arrangement” based on Beijing’s friendship with Manila, after the Philippines said its people have been able to fish there in recent days.
“The China-Philippines relationship has improved comprehensively, marked by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news conference in Beijing.
She said the arrangement regarding the island was made after Duterte expressed concern over access and Beijing considered the affection between the two countries.
During a four-day trip to China in October, Duterte resumed Manila’s relationship with Beijing after his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, worsened bilateral ties by being confrontational toward China.
Manila’s national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr, a senior aide to Duterte, said on Monday that the Philippines and China have reached a “friendly” understanding allowing Filipinos to fish around the island.
Hua said that China has always exercised jurisdiction over Huangyan Island.
“Related circumstances have not changed and there will be no change in the future,” she said.
Jia Duqiang, a researcher of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China has sovereignty over Huangyan Island, and allowing Philippines fishermen to fish around the island is a “concrete step” the two countries have taken to show goodwill and properly handle disputes.
Also, it would be “an absolute misreading” to link the fact that Filipino fishermen are allowed access to the island with the ruling in the South China Sea arbitration case, Jia said.
China doesn’t accept the arbitration or the ruling.