OCCIDENTAL MINDORO – Vice-presidential aspirant Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Wednesday said the leadership under a Robredo-Pangilinan government will not turn a blind eye nor a deaf ear regarding the continuous harassment that Filipino fishermen face from Chinese vessels while fishing in the contested West Philippine Sea.
In a radio interview here, Pangilinan maintained his position that the Philippines will continue asserting its right over the West Philippine Sea by virtue of the 2016 arbitral ruling that favors the Philippines.
“Dapat manindigan tayo… hindi tayo magiging sunud-sunuran sa China. Hindi tayo makikipag-away sa kanila pero ipaglalaban natin ang ating mga mangingisda,” Pangilinan said, mentioning the ramming incident of the Gem-Ver 1 in this province last 2019.
The Gem-Ver 1, carrying 22 Filipino fishermen, sank after a Chinese vessel rammed it while it was anchored at Recto Reef on June 9, 2019. Recto Reef is still within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Chinese vessels remain patrolling the area despite the arbitral ruling.
It was only after two years that a formal negotiation between the Philippines and China to compensate the 22 Filipino fishermen kickstarted. Up until now, there has been no resolution to the case.
“Ang mahirap diyan kumakampi pa sa China sa halip na kampihan at alalayan ang ating mga mangingisda… hindi tayo papayag na sila ang magdidikta sa atin, atin yan eh. Tayo ay gobyerno ng Pilipinas, hindi tayo probinsya ng China…Ang ating mga mangingisda ang nagpapakain sa atin kaya dapat lang na ipaglaban din natin at suportahan sila,” Pangilinan said.
In order for a similar incident to not happen again, Pangilinan proposes to strengthen the deployment of uniformed personnel in the territorial waters of the country, particularly tapping the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard.
“Ibalik ang Coast Guard, regular dapat ang patrolyo sa West Philippine Sea. At dapat magkaroon din ng joint patrol ang ating Navy kasama iyong mga military exercises pa. [Dapat makipag-ugnayan] sa Australia at iba pang bansa sa Asia na willing makipag-cooperate sa mga [military] exercises na ito upang may presensya tayo diyan,” Pangilinan said.
Occidental Mindoro farmers, meanwhile, are also seeking help from the government as they continue to suffer from losses as a result of smuggling of onion and the problem on pests.
Pangilinan assured the farmers that the Senate has already investigated the smuggling of food produce, where the Department of Agriculture (DA) vowed to investigate the matter and run after the people behind this deplorable act.
As to the problem on pests, Pangilinan said attached agencies of the DA should have a sense of urgency to put in place mechanisms that will help local farmers in Occidental Mindoro to fight pests.
“Iyong usapin ng harabas, insekto lang yan. Tayo ay mga tao, nag-iisip tayo. Iyang mga insekto na yan, di nag-iisip yan. Ang problema diyan, walang sense of urgency ang gobyerno,” he said.
Price of onion in the province dropped to P6 per kilo from the usual wholesale price of P30-P40, forcing the local government to declare a state of emergency that affected 9,000 onion farmers.