FIVE years since the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea favoring the country, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said the people must continue to assert their rights over their waters, which is key to addressing hunger, poverty, and high power cost.
The senator pointed out that the waters of the West Philippine Sea are home to vast marine resources, from oil and gas reserves deep beneath its surface, to the fishes and other seafood that could support the people’s needs as well as provide a source of income to Filipino fishermen.
“May mga banta na ng brownouts, ng linggo-linggong pagtaas ng presyo ng langis, at ang gutom na kinakaharap ng milyon-milyong Pilipino. Ang sagot sa lahat ng ito ay ang responsableng paggamit ng yaman ng ating karagatan (There are the threats of looming brownouts, weekly spiraling oil prices, and the hunger plaguing millions of Filipinos. The answers to all these could be found if we harness responsibly the wealth of our waters),” Pangilinan said.
He stressed that the arbitral ruling is an important legal victory that has the force and effect of a law and recognized by the international community,
“The international tribunal ruling seals our stake on the disputed waters. Pero kailangan pa rin nating igiit ang ating mga karapatan at alagaan ang ating teritoryo. Dapat nagkakaisa tayo bilang isang bansa (But, we have to continue asserting our rights and safeguarding our territory. We have to be united as a nation),” he said.
Pangilinan lamented China’s continued violation of the arbitral ruling that invalidated its extensive nine-dash claim over the South China Sea.
Over the years, it continues to send fishermen, coast guard ships, and maritime militia ships to the part of the West Philippine Sea that is the critical waterway within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
He lauded the Philippine Coast Guard and Filipino fishermen patrolling portions of the waters and bravely standing up against the giant ships of China.
“Kahit na binubully o hina-harass ang mga mangingisda natin, tuloy lang sila sa pag-giit ng kanilang kalayaan na mamalakaya at kumita para sa pamilya nila. Hindi sila dapat pinagkakaitan ng talaga namang atin (Despite the bullying and harassment against our fishermen, they remain relentless in asserting their freedom to sail and earn their livelihood for their families. They should not be deprived of the resources that are ours),” Pangilinan said.
“Dapat may kalayaang maglayag sa ating exclusive economic zone. Ito ang isang paraan para mapatupad ang Hague ruling (There must be freedom of navigation in our exclusive economic zone. This is one way of enforcing the ruling),” he said.
Aside from its oil potential and resources, Pangilinan echoed scientists in saying that the West Philippine Sea may also hold the key to biomedical breakthroughs. It can also help in studies about ecosystem changes to measure the human impact on the environment.
“Nagbibigay pag-asa ang yaman ng West Philippine Sea na maiahon tayong mga Pilipino sa mga problema natin. Hindi maaaring alisin sa atin ito (The resources of the West Philippine Sea offers hope of alleviating the Filipinos from their woes and this should not be taken away from us),” Pangilinan said.