West PH Sea dispute not a laughing, it’s about securing food and livelihood: Pangilinan

SECURING the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is not a laughing matter to Filipino fishermen who rely on it for livelihood and to the many more who benefit from its bounty, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Thursday.

“Seryosong usapin ito. Nakasalalay rito ang kita ng ating mga kababayang mangingisda. Dito nakasalalay kung magugutom ba ang kanilang mga pamilya o hindi — ang unang-una dapat na prayoridad ng ating gobyerno,” said the former food security secretary.

“How are we able to secure the livelihood of our fishermen if we don’t secure the West Philippine Sea? How are we able to secure our food if we are cut from our very own resource-rich waters? Very basic na ito. Kawalan ng trabaho at gutom ang katapat kung papabayaan pa lalo ang West Philippine Sea,” Pangilinan said.

Earlier, the National Task Force on WPS said 287 Chinese vessels have been monitored in Philippine waters.

“Marapat na ipaglalaban ang ating karapatan sa West Philippine Sea. Hanggang ngayon, lampas 200 ang mga sasakyang pandagat ng China ang nasa ating teritoryo at tinatakot ang ating mga mangingisda,” Pangilinan said.

“Ibig sabihin, mas marami pa ngayon yung Chinese ships na humihigop ng mga huli na dapat napupunta sa mga mangingisda natin,” he added.

Carlo Montehermozo, the fisherman who asked the question during the last Presidential debate, said that he was hurt over the President’s remarks that his promise of riding a jet ski to the West Philippine Sea to assert Philippine sovereignty was just a campaign joke and that people are stupid to believe it.

According to Montehermozo, he and his fellow fishermen were dismayed and that the President broke his promise.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) also said that Filipino fishermen have lost control over Scarborough shoal, a lagoon that used to be part of the Filipino traditional fishing ground is now reportedly barred from entry by two Chinese vessels.

Pangilinan earlier warned of a looming fish shortage if Chinese presence remains in the disputed waters.

Last month, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea reported that at least 240,000 kilos of fish are poached every day by Chinese fishing vessels.

Economists said that China potentially profits $6 billion a year from illegally fishing in Philippine waters.