Cayetano: Chinese harassing Filipino fishermen will be dealt with

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) — The country's top diplomat has given assurance to protect Filipino fishermen's welfare.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said, "Secretary Abella talked to the Chinese Ambassador the other day, ako kagabi kasama ko siya sa isang inassure tayo ng Chinese Ambassador that they will apply the law very harshly sa violators...may agreement na tayo sa kanila na dapat ang fishermen ay dapat malaya."

Cayetano said they still have to get all the details before filing a diplomatic protest, as there are also reports of fishermen selling their catch to the Chinese. But, he assured them the government is taking all steps to protect their welfare.

Cayetano also said China gave their word that Filipinos could fish in the disputed waters freely, except for areas that have significant ecological value like the lagoon inside Scarborough Shoal.

Word war brewing?

A word war between Cayetano and Magdalo Partylist Representative Gary Alejano is heating up.

Cayetano slammed Alejano for "spreading fake news" against the latter's claim that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Armed Forces to stop patrolling the West Philippine Sea.

Asked for a comment, Alejano said, "Sino ba ang may history ng pagsisinungaling sa publiko? Secretary Cayetano should take note that I have wide intelligence network even in his own office. I do not invent stories. Ayusin niya script niya."

[Translation: Who has a history of lying to the public? Secretary Cayetano should take note that I have wide intelligence network even in his own office. I do not invent stories. He should fix his script.]

Cayetano said Alejano's allegation was a blatant lie, and the irresponsible statements might affect the country's national security.

"May epekto ito sa security natin [This has an effect on our security] and that's why I'm shocked na from a former military officer, he'll be that irresponsible," said Cayetano.

He said maritime and aerial patrols are still happening in the West Philippine Sea. The Armed Forces earlier also gave the same statement.

Cayetano said Alejano wanted to make the public worry to discredit the Duterte administration, and make his name in the newspapers to serve his senatorial bet in 2019.

Alejano has been one of the President's main critics. Last year, he also sponsored an impeachment complaint against him.

"Fake news ito, na lumalabas sa bibig ng kagalang-galang na Congressman at hindi nakakatulong ito...hindi totoo na we lost any territory. Palibhasa mahirap puntahan yung lugar, kung anu-ano ang sinasabi ng ilang kritiko kasama si Congressman Alejano na hindi naman totoo," Cayetano said Sunday at an event welcoming repatriated Filipino workers from the United Arab Emirates.

Alejano also challenged the Secretary to go to Sandy Cay with the media to prove his claim.

"If indeed we still control Sandy Cay, I challenge Sec. Cayetano for us to go there, together with members of the media as witnesses. Now, if we are not harassed or shooed away by Chinese Coast Guard or Navy, then I will believe him," he said.

CNN Philippines' Pia Garcia contributed to this story.