US and China; a devil and a deep blue sea – fisherfolk

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US and China; a devil and a deep blue sea – fisherfolkobama-china_3104142b

Manila, Philippines “The fisherfolk is caught between the devil and a deep blue sea. Neither of these two giants are a knight in shining armor for the plight of the fisherfolk and the Filipino people.”

This was the statement of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) on Saturday in objection to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which was upheld its constitutionality by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The fisherfolk group slammed the United States for trying to deceive the Filipino people that the EDCA will help the Philippines in its maritime dispute against China.

But Pamalakaya told the Filipino fisherfolk nationwide not to fall into United States’ rhetoric lies.

The EDCA, under the guise of protecting us from external conflicts will just escalate our tensions with China. The fact is Uncle Sam won’t even waste its single bullet to China just for our islands in the West Philippine Sea. The US has more economic interest and ties with China than our country.” Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson said in a statement.

Chinas have been hostile in claiming the West Philippines Sea, adversely affecting the livelihoods of the Filipino fisherfolk. Filipino fishers who go near the area where China is building its artificial islands were being harassed by Chinese Coast Guards to shoo them away. Most fisherfolk from Zambales can’t go back to their livelihoods in fear of Chinese harassment.

But Pamalakaya said we cannot rely the security of the livelihoods of our fishers in the American troops because U.S. is no different from China, also bringing terror and fear to the Filipino fishers.

Pamalakaya said that in 2014, two fishing boats sank after being rammed by US guided missile-destroyer in Subic Bay. Three Filipino fishermen were injured in the incident and their fishing boats and gears were destroyed. Pamalakaya got the chance to interview one of the victims after the incident and according to the victim, he can’t return to his livelihood since the incident happened. The incident also brought fear and intimidation to some fishers to return to their livelihoods again.

On 2009, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) imposed a 6-month fishing ban in Bicol Region to give way to the US-RP balikatan exercise.

Also in Oyster Bay, Palawan, the fisherfolk are not allowed to go within the vicinity of the waters where the American troops are building its naval base.

It is clear that not only China, but also the U.S. brings more disruptions to the livelihoods of the fisherfolk; not just in West Philippine Sea, but in the whole country.” France, also a convener of the broad alliance Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) said.

Pamalakaya said that with our self-reliance and collective actions, we can advance even our external military defense to guard ourselves from external conflicts without relying from the help of a bigger and more powerful country like the United States.

“We should not choose between U.S. and China because neither of these two superpowers will uphold our national interest but rather, they are both a serious threat to our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” France ended. ###

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