Formerly tense Sino-Filipino relations warm after fisheries training trip

Published on
January 17, 2017

Keen to resolve its bitter territorial row with the Philippines, China this month hosted a 17-person delegation of Filipino fishermen, officials and seafood executives as part of a training program paid for by the Chinese government.

The visit is part of a “consensus” among the leaders of both countries to “restart fishing cooperation” following years of bitter dispute over control of part of the South China Sea near the Philippines, which is claimed by both countries.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, which coordinated the visit, invitees included the head of the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Wilfredo M. Cruz, as well as other senior Filipino fisheries officials, coast guard commanders and seafood firms from the island of Palawan, near the disputed area of the South China Sea claimed by China.  

The delegation returned home from Guangzhou on 13 January, after training in deep-sea cage-fish farming, feed and nutrition, and seedling preparation. The group also visited several fisheries sites in southern China.

The warming of relations between China and The Philippines comes after years of Chinese coast guard harassment of Filipino fishermen, part of a move that was deemed a territorial grab by the previous Filipino governmnte.

However, relations between the two countries experienced a sharp reversal with the election of Rodrigo Duterte as the new Filipino president. After his surprise visit to Beijing late last year, the Chinese government dispatched Liu Xinzhong, the vice-head of the Fisheries Bureau at the Department of Agriculture to meet with the Filipino fishermen, who have expressed anger and frustration after being blocked from their traditional waters.

It remains to be seen if the Filipino fishermen will be mollified by Chinese aquaculture training, though the Chinese Academy of Fisheries is renowned for its expertise in aquaculture and has become a go-to source of knowledge for developing countries through bilateral partnerships and training sessions organized by United Nations bodies. 

A statement from the Chinese ministry called for both sides to be “cooperative.”

“[We should have] mutual aid and development in the good neighborly and friendly partnership. China is willing to share the best and most advanced development experience and fishery technology with the Philippines,” the statement said.  

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