By Roy Mabasa
The Philippine government will take “legal action” against China following reports that Chinese fishermen are mass harvesting giant clams in the Scarborough Shoal.
“We just caught them doing that recently, filed a diplomatic note, and will be taking legal action. With our legal department now,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet on Tuesday.
In a separate interview, Locsin said the Philippines raised the issue of the catching of giant clams in the West Philippine Sea through a note verbale earlier sent to Beijing.
“We took the substance, the report of the national task force of the West Philippine Sea. We said this is verified by us. We protest it. It is illegal and in fact, you’re also violating conventions on environmental protection for which we can take legal action,” he said.
When pressed on what legal action the Philippines will be taking, Locsin said the DFA legal office led by Assistant Secretary Eduardo Malaya is still studying the matter.
Earlier, television network ABS-CBN aired a report where Filipino fishermen were complaining of Chinese activities in the shoal which they said had been going on for years.
The Filipino fishermen claimed that Chinese Coast Guard speedboats prevent them from accessing in and around the shoal.
Last month, Malacanang vowed to file a protest against China over the supposed harassment of Filipino fishermen if concerned authorities can present definitive proof.
Palace Spokesman Salvador Panelo even said the Philippines cannot do anything at the moment as China has control over the disputed area.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippine petition invalidating China’s excessive nine-dash line claim.