An opposition lawmaker on Saturday expressed his dismay over Malacañang’s response on the reported massive presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea.“ Malacañang has dismissed the matter as mere speculation even in the face of clear documentation of the presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippines Sea. The government also seems unfazed by the possibility that these Chinese fishing vessels are getting our resources and source of food, Magdalo Party-List Rep. Gary Alejano said.
Alejano made the statement after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Malacañang sees no problem if the Chinese vessels are fishing in the West Philippine Sea saying, “Walang problema kung fishing-fishing lang”.
Alejano reminded the administration that the area where Chinese fishing vessels are clustering is part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
“Only Filipino fishermen can fish within the Philippines’ EEZ as affirmed by the arbitral ruling. Filipinos have exclusive sovereign rights over our EEZ. Hindi pwedeng sabihin na walang problema. The statement of Malacañang can be taken by China as a waiver of Philippine sovereign rights,” Alejano said.
According to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016, Mischief Reef is part of the Philippines’ EEZ which means that the Philippines has sovereign rights in the area. The tribunal also said that China has violated the rights of the Philippines when Chinese vessels fished in Mischief Reef and other areas within the Philippine EEZ.
Meanwhile, Chinese-occupied Subi Reef was found to be a low-tide elevation by the tribunal which does not generate entitlement to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, or continental shelf for China.
Given this, Alejano, a.former Marine officer, called on the government to be careful on its assertions regarding our claims and rights in the West Philippine Sea. He said that officials must be aware of the repercussions of their official statements on the country’s national interest and security.
“The Philippines won a favorable decision against China in the UN arbitral ruling. We should capitalize on this and assert our rights instead of waiving them. The West Philippine Sea is ours and Filipinos have exclusive rights on exploiting the resources there. Those who argue otherwise are threats to our national security and food security,” Alejano said.
Meanwhile, Alejano advised the Duterte administration to assess its strategy with China and listen to the Defense Department after Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed alarm over China’s intentions in the West Philippine Sea.
“The administration must heed the warnings shared by no less than the Defense Secretary. China’s actions, including its militarization of reclaimed islands in the West Philippine Sea and harassment against Filipinos, is a threat to our national security. The administration should re-think their strategy with China,” Alejano said.
During the Senate deliberation on the budget of the Department of National Defense yesterday, Defense Secretary Lorenzana had said China was clearly trying to extend its influence and establish their control in the West Philippine Sea by reclaiming islands and turning them into a military or naval base.
“While the administration continue to cozying with China and even praise the aggressor publicly, China continues to encroach in our territory and slowly deplete our resources. China’s attempt to control the South China Sea is a detriment to our fisherfolks who rely on our maritime resources for their livelihood,” Alejano said.