MANILA, Philippines - As trouble with China’s incursion in the Philippines’ western waters deepens, a large fish port is set to be built next year in the country’s eastern seaboard to boost fishing activities in the area as well as prevent poaching and foreign encroachment, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said yesterday.
Alcala said construction of the planned fish port is likely to cost between P300 million to P400 million.
Possible locations for the new fish port are Batanes, Aurora and Quezon.
The new fish port will be equipped with processing facilities and cold storage systems.
While poaching is not a major problem in the country’s eastern waters, authorities said a few Taiwanese fishing vessels would sometimes venture into the area through the Luzon Strait near Batanes.
The Philippines is locked in territorial disputes with China, Taiwan and other neighboring countries over some islets, shoals, atolls and coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.
Beijing, in fact, has already set up permanent presence at Panatag Shoal, just 124 nautical miles from Zambales.
“We have few fishing vessels in the Pacific side because we don’t have much processing activities there, unlike in the South China Sea where there is greater presence of Philippine fishing vessels,” Alcala said.
He said a bigger presence of local fishing vessels in the country’s territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean side would deter poaching or foreign incursions.
“This way, we can avoid (poaching) because there will be increased presence,” he said.
The Philippines’ maritime troubles worsened on May 9 when its coast guard shot and killed a suspected Taiwanese poacher off Batanes.
The incident soured relations between Manila and Taipei and threatened the jobs and even physical safety of more than 80,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.
President Aquino later brought up the possibility of forging a fisheries agreement with Taiwan in an apparent bid to ease tension.
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay said that with the country’s one-China policy, only the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) can represent the government in Taiwan.
“We have a one-China policy. The President, the Vice President, the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the secretary of National Defense are not allowed to go there because of the one-China policy,” Binay said.
He said he had also played a role in enhancing relations between Manila and Taipei, especially during his stint as Makati City mayor and head of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. He said the BSP held various activities in Taiwan.
“It will not take long and the problem there will be resolved soon. Actually, the situation there has already simmered down,” Binay said.
“There is no more harsh exchange of words and peaceful negotiation will soon follow.” – With Jose Rodel Clapano