Coast guard must step up to protect fishermen in West PH Sea: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2023 01:29 PM

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MANILA – A maritime law expert said he hopes Filipino fishermen would be more vocal about their experiences of being driven away from the West Philippine Sea, two days after the Chinese Coast Guard reportedly drove away a Filipino fishing boat in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).

“Ang gusto ko sana mangyari, una, yung ating mga mangingisda ay talagang maging mas aktibo na nagrereport, nagbabalita kung anong mga ginagawa sa kanila dyan sa West Philippine Sea. At para rin magkaroon ng transparency kung ano talagang sitwasyon dyan sa tubigan,” said Professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

(I want to see our fishermen actively reporting what is being done to them at the West Philippine Sea. So we have transparency on what is happening within our waters.)

“At ito dapat ay hindi na kumbaga itatago ng gobyerno para ipakita din sa buong mundo kung ano’ng totoong score ‘ika ng dyan sa West Philippine Sea, makita na patuloy pa rin talaga lumabalabag ang Tsina sa karapatan ng Pilipino sa kabila ng kanilang mga magagandang sinasabi,” he added.

(And government must not hide this, so the whole world can see what is happening in the West Philippine Sea--that China is constantly violating Philippine rights despite what they say.)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it is currently investigating the reported incident and Task Force Pag-asa was immediately deployed in the area to establish the country's presence there.

Batongbacal noted, however, that the PCG must increase their presence in the West Philippine Sea to help protect Filipino fishermen from harassment.

“Maganda po na nagrespond agad ang Coast Guard this time na palakasin nila yung kanilang presensiya sa lugar para nga medyo ma-deter, hopefully hindi mas madalas mangyari yung pagtatagpo nay an habang nandoon ang Coast Guard.”

(It's good that Coast Guard responded right away but they need to boost their presence in the area to deter the Chinese Coast Guard and hopefully make encounters with them less frequent.)

“Kaya sana magtagal ito, masustain itong effort na ‘to na mas continuous yung kanilang presence,” he added.

(Hopefully, they sustain their effort of a large presence there.)

The expert said he fears that China may escalate its threats against local fishermen—despite President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos saying that China has agreed not to stop Filipino fishermen from earning their livelihood in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sa ngayon nga ‘no, parang hindi pa rin sila magbabago, nung kanilang signal at actually parang mas nag-iintensify ‘no yung kanilang effort na palayasin talaga yung Pilipinas sa sarili niyang katubigan.”

“Ang nakakatakot dito is based on their pattern sa Vietnam, talagang tuloy-tuloy, maaaring gumamit ng dahas, sa mangingisda natin, para matakot nga sila,” he noted.

(It seems that they haven't changed and are even intensifying efforts against Filipino fishermen. I'm afraid that, based on their pattern with Vietnam, they might use violence to strike fear in the hearts of our fishermen. 

China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that it has no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, and Manila ordered its military last month to boost its presence after a report that China had started reclaiming several unoccupied land features around the Spratly Islands.

Taiwan also lays claim to parts of the sea.

--TeleRadyo, 23 January 2023