By Raymund Antonio
Four Otso Diretso candidates on Monday reminded President Duterte of his campaign promise to Filipinos that he would ride a jetski to assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.
“Ang hamon natin, gawin niya yung pagsakay sa jetski sa West Philippine Sea, kaso nangalawang na ang jetski. Tayuan niya ang mga Pilipino. Di tatagal, magiging probinsya na tayo ng China,” Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said.
“Kung di tatayo ang president, tayo ang tatayo,” the former Marine captain stressed.
Alejano, along with former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno took their campaign to Masinloc, Zambales, where they met fisher folks.
They assured the people that they can be counted on to stand for their rights against China’s aggression.
“The Zambales jet ski challenge also seeks to defend the livelihood of 300,000 fisher folk and their families nationwide,” Gutoc said.
Hilbay and Diokno said the case the Philippines won against China at the international tribunal at The Hague should have allowed the country to push forward in asserting its rights over its own territorial waters.
“Kailangan niyo ng kakampi sa gobyerno. Ang ating president ay dapat president ng mga Pilipino, hindi ng mga Chinese,” said Hilbay.
Diokno lamented the recent statement of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources telling Zambales fisher folk to just avoid fishing in the disputed waters.
“Nakakalungkot ito. Atin ang West Philippine Sea, kinikilala yan ng arbitral tribunal decision pero ang mismong pangulo natin ayaw kilalanin,” Diokno, a human rights lawyer, said.
Diokno vowed he would work to assert the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea and all its territory once elected to the Senate.
“Kailangan i-assert natin talaga yung ating ano diyan, na atin talaga ang West Philippine Sea, at lahat ng teritoryo natin ay kailangan may sovereignty tayo diyan,” he said.
“Ngayon, yung nakakalungkot ay ang talagang naaapektuhan niyan, ang ating mga mangingisda. Yan ang short-term effect,” he added.
Diokno voiced out the failure of the government to assert its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea does not just hurt the fisher folk, but also future generations of Filipinos.
“Pero isipin natin, yung long-term effect niyan ay yung mga susunod na henerasyon ng Pilipino ay maaapektuhan tayong lahat, kasi andaming kayamanang mga natural resources na andiyan na inaagaw nila at hindi natin magagamit para sa ating mga nangangailangan,” Diokno stressed.
The opposition senatorial bet also questioned the administration’s refusal to allow even the media to visit areas like Panatag Shoal.
“Ang tanong nga diyan eh akala ko ba may kalayaan tayo sa ating bayan, pati ang kalayaan na pumunta sa bawat sulok ng Pilipinas? Bakit pati ang media, hindi pinapayagang pumunta sa Scarborough Shoal?” he asked.
Otso Diretso originally planned to plant a Philippine flag in Panatag Shoal as a symbolic positive step to the arbitral award granted to the Philippines in 2016.
But they were reportedly prevented by the Philippine Coast Guard from going to the contested area in the shoal, which the maritime agency denied.
“I asked our Subic station, there was no report of that incident and we are not preventing anyone,” PCG spokesman Captain Armand Balilo said.
He added that the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates could even personally call him to coordinate their sea travel to the shoal. #MatalinongBoto2019