Don’t go soft on China, assert right in West Ph Sea – Fisherfolk to Duterte
Manila, Philippines – As China is pouring billions of dollars of loan grants for Philippine infrastructure projects, the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) expresses fear that President Rodrigo Duterte might be blinded by the investments and fail to assert our rightful claim over the disputed West Philippine Sea.
China claims almost 90% of the South China Sea or equivalent to 80% of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf (ECS) through the 9-dash line assumption. Even with the decision of the international tribunal favoring the Philippines’ claim over the sea, China refuses to comply with the verdict. It was almost 4 years that the Filipino fisherfolk were deprived by Chinese personnel to fish in Scarborough Shoal until President Duterte’s first state visit to Beijing on October last year that led to our cordial relation with China. But even so, China has yet to completely surrender its irrational claim over the disputed waters as it continues to build artificial structures intended for military facilities.
Although PAMALAKAYA welcomes President Duterte’s effort to demand China to respect the rights of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, the fisherfolk group scores the major turn back of President Duterte on its promise to actively assert our legal and political rights to end China’s illegal occupation in our territory. As President Duterte’s economic policy shifts towards China, the group fears it equates to complete disregard of our unresolved maritime dispute with Beijing.
West Philippine Sea is a strategic fishing hub for Filipino fishers. It produces an average of 5,000 metric tons of fish products per year. Fisherfolk from Zambales, Bataan, Pangasinan, and Batangas rely on its rich marine resources.
“We fear for the loss of the country’s one of the rich fishing grounds if President Duterte’ shows neglect to pursue our claim in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for Chinese aid. We remind President Duterte that China’s billion-dollar commitment is not a benevolent act. They apparently want something big in return, and we fear to admit that West Philippine Sea is one of them,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
China initially commits $3.4B for the construction of three major infrastructure projects in the country, namely, the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, New Centennial Water Sources-Kaliwa Dam Project, and the North-South Railway Project.
The fisherfolk urges President Duterte to stand against Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea.
“We are not demanding that he fulfill his promise to ride a jetski and plant Philippine flag to Spratlys. All we are asking is to sturdily assert China to stop their occupation and reclamation activities in our waters because it will pose environmental destruction in the long run. In the end, no less than the Filipino fishers and the country’s food security would be at stake if we will go soft with China,” ended Hicap. ###