Marine sanctuary might leave Scarborough Shoal wide open to foreign poachers –
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) told President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to declare the lagoon in Scarborough Shoal as a marine sanctuary for a reason to preserve the deteriorating marine resources in the fishing water.
Scarborough Shoal, which is 124 nautical miles away from the shoreline of the province of Zambales is part of the country’s 220-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 150-nautical mile extended continental shelf (ECS). China takes its full control in the shoal on 2012 and aggressively prevented the Filipino fishermen from entering in the disputed waters. But after President Duterte’s state visit to China last October, Filipino fishers have now been able to return to their traditional fishing grounds.
Pamalakaya said declaring the lagoon as marine protected area might again result to depriving the Filipino fishers of their right to livelihood and fishing zones.
“Marine sanctuary might bring back the situation where Filipino fishers are not allowed to enter our own territory, but this time it will be our own law and government that will prohibit them, not China. Filipino fishers have yet to recover after years of deprivation and restriction from the West Philippine Sea. We fear that declaring it as marine sanctuary would pave way for another fishing blockade,” Hicap said.
Instead, the fisherfolk group urges President Duterte to develop a utilization plan that will maximize our marine resources in the West Philippine Sea for the country’s domestic needs without making the fishers’ livelihood at stake. Above this, active assertion of our territory is still crucial to completely regain our control in the long disputed waters, for that we can manage and protect our own resources from rampant exploitation of foreign-owned large and highly sophisticated fishing fleets that exploit our waters.
“President Duterte should instead ensure the utilization and maximization of our marine resources rather than leave it wide open to the exploiters especially foreign commercial fishing fleets. He must also actively assert our rightful claim to our territory and national sovereignty,”
“Filipino fishers who have return to Scarborough Shoal is an initial victory for the Filipino fishers and patriot who until now consistently fight for our sovereignty. President Duterte must lead in protecting our victory and not create a single breach that will make us out of possession of our territory again,” Hicap ended. ###