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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fight for fishers in WPS, CBCP urges admin

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Officials of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines urged the government to use all legal means to protect Filipino fishermen from continued harassment by the Chinese Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea.In a signed statement, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the administration might need to seek help from other allied countries, like the United States.“The Church stands with them, and as a shepherd from various ecclesiastical jurisdictions with fisherfolk within our pastoral care, we stand with them, and we bishops give voice to their fears and anxieties, their woes and their concerns,” the bishops said in a statement joint pastoral exhortation titled “Children, Have You Caught Anything to Eat?”Villegas and Iba, Zambales Bishop Bartolome Santos Jr., San Fernando, La Union Bishop Daniel Presto, Puerto Princesa Apostolic Vicar Bishop Socrates Mesiona and Taytay, Palawan Apostolic Vicar Bishop Broderick Pabillo said they stand with the Filipino fishermen who are exercising their right to fish within Philippine waters.The prelates said they favor a peaceful settlement to the issue, noting that it cannot be a moral option to wage war.“All legal means must be exhausted…If present diplomatic endeavors do not suffice, then it is permissible – morally necessary even – to have recourse to the friendship of allies who can help us defend what is ours,” the CBCP officials said.“Neither is it just for the leaders of our country to allow our own fisherfolk to be driven out of fishing grounds over which international law recognizes our rights. We gratefully acknowledge statements of resoluteness about defending the resources that God, in his munificence, has made available to us through the sea, but words are not enough,” they added.Earlier, President Marcos raised the possibility of pursuing a separate bilateral code of conduct in the South China Sea with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).“If we cannot finish the code of conduct with ASEAN and China, I said let us make it bilateral first with the members of ASEAN,” the President said after his two-day state visit in Vietnam last month.Mr. Marcos said his visit signals the beginning of the dialogue in crafting the COC between the two nations.Tensions between China and the Philippines have heightened in recent months as both sides trade accusations over a series of incidents in the South China Sea.China claims most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

An international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China’s claim in a ruling on a case brought by the Philippines, but Beijing refuses to recognize the decision.

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