By Ernie Reyes
The West Philippine Sea (circled image/courtesy by Philippine Embassy)
MANILA — Being friendly and diplomatic in the matters of the West Philippine Sea is different from subservience, especially if Filipino jobs and food sources are on the line, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Tuesday.
“It’s one thing to be friendly and diplomatic, it’s another thing to be subservient and tikom ang bibig o nananahimik o nagsu-sunud-sunuran. China is the aggressor here… China is occupying key areas in our exclusive economic zone. We are talking about 300,000 or 500,000 square kilometers that are now being threatened,” Pangilinan said.
In a media interview on Tuesday, the former Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization reiterated calls by fisherfolk organizations that Filipino fishermen are earning next to nothing due to Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea.
“In our consultations with our fisherfolk organizations, dati malaya silang nakakapangisda diyan sa mga lugar na yan at ang kita nila sa isang labas ay 4,000 pesos. Mahina na ang 4,000 pesos. Ngayon tinataboy sila. So bagsak talaga ang kanilang kita diyan sa karagatan sa lugar na in dispute,” Pangilinan said.
Last week, fisherfolk from Pangasinan said that they were dismayed over the President’s broken promise of taking a jet ski to assert Philippine claims in the disputed waters.
Fisherfolk are bearing the brunt of the burden as they have lost control over traditional Filipino fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.
According to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), Filipino fishermen cannot anymore enter Scarborough Shoal because two Chinese vessels bar their entry.
“Ang record ay sinasabi about 170,000 metric tons of fish are being caught [by China] every day in our waters. That is food security. Ang pinakamurang source ng protina para sa ating mga kababayan ay isda. At napakahalaga ng protina para manatiling malusog ang ating mga kababayan. Tapos ang nangyayari, tinataboy ang ating mga mangingisda ngunit hindi natin pinaglalaban. Hindi ito tama,” Pangilinan said.
The pandemic, coupled with the lockdowns that have cost jobs and livelihoods, caused a historic rise in hunger among Filipinos. In September 2020, the self-reported hunger rate jumped to about 31 percent or nearly a third of Filipino households, or about 7.6 million households, according to the Social Weather Stations. The previous record was 23.8 percent in March 2012.
Citing the case of Vietnam and Indonesia, Pangilinan said that the threats of war is a scare tactic to render the country immobile, further noting that China is currently claiming over 300,000 square kilometers of Philippine waters that is about the same size as the entire land mass of the Philippines.
“Hindi ibig sabihin kapag ikaw ay nagsunud-sunuran, uunahin ka o bibigyan ka ng importansya…Vietnam has taken a position in this issue with respect to their claims. Indonesia too. And there has been no war. War is parang tinatakot tayo para hindi tayo kumilos. Eh bakit tayo magpapatakot?” he said.
As of a May 4 maritime patrol, the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea reported the presence of at least 287 Chinese vessels in said waters.
Diplomatic protests were ordered filed last week. (AI/MTVN)