WITH the continuing ecological destruction, intrusion, and persistent harassment in parts of the West Philippine Sea and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan asks the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform to conduct an inquiry on the plight of affected Filipino fisherfolk.
In Proposed Senate Resolution 777 filed Thursday, Pangilinan noted that “the protection of the rights and livelihood of our fisherfolk, especially subsistence fishers, and ensuring food security are urgent tasks.”
“Pagkain at kabuhayan ang usapin dito kaya dapat listo sa pagprotekta at pagdepensa,” added the former presidential food security adviser.
Pangilinan calls on government to commit, under any circumstance, in asserting the country’s and its people’s rights and enforce the arbitral ruling that rejects China’s expansive claims over the resources and area covered by its Nine-Dash Line that encroaches on the maritime entitlement of other states, including the Philippines’ EEZ and extended continental shelf.
“Government must stand up to China’s aggression, with the welfare of our people at the forefront of every policy and decision. Dapat protektahan ang ating mga kababayan at itaguyod ang ating pambansang interes,” he said.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines in its historic case against the People’s Republic of China over the West Philippine Sea.
The PCA concluded that there was no legal basis for China’s claim to historic, sovereign rights to the area, in excess of the rights provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas.
However, five years after the landmark PCA Award, China has continued to assert its claim and increase its presence in the West Philippine Sea.
Recent satellite images from Simularity, a US-based geospatial imagery and data analysis company, showed hundreds of Chinese vessels dumping human and sewage wastes in some parts of the West Philippine Sea particularly in Union Banks and Pagkakaisa Reefs.
This can cause long-term damage to marine life and pose a serious risk to the fisheries and biodiversity of our waters.
But the dumping of human and sewage waste is not the first intrusion done by China, Chinese vessels have reportedly encroached on Philippine waters multiple times, illegally harvesting marine resources in the area, building artificial islands for military purposes, and barring Filipino fisherfolk from areas within the country’s EEZ.
This resulted in loss of livelihood for Filipino fishermen. In May 2021, fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that because of the increased presence of Chinese vessels in Panatag Shoal, the income of Filipino fisherfolk operating in the area dropped from P1,000 to P300 per fishing trip, or an alarming 70% decrease.
“Lately nakita natin ang balita na nagtatapon ng sewage and human waste ang mga Chinese vessels sa ating karagatan. Such practices are causing damage to our coral reefs and marine ecosystem. Sinisira nila ang hindi kanila kasabay nito ay tinataboy nila ang ating mga mangingisda na may karapatan sa mga karagatan na ito,” Pangilinan said.
“In behalf of our fisherfolk and our children, we have to stand up to this harassment,” he added.
Filipino fisherfolk are among the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of Philippine society, with one in three fisherfolk considered as poor per 2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
“Bigyan natin ng boses at laban ang ating maliit na fisherfolk, ipagtangol natin ang ating mga karagatan. Atin ang West Philippine Sea,” Pangilinan said.
In his proposed Senate resolution, Pangilinan also cited Section 87 of Republic Act 8550 otherwise known as “The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998” which states that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any foreign person, corporation, or entity to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters. The entry of any foreign fishing vessel in Philippine waters shall constitute a prima facie evidence that the vessel is engaged in fishing in Philippine waters.”
Download PSR No 777_Pangilinan