By Jel Santos
Members of cause-oriented groups held a protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati City to assert the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea as the nation celebrates Independence Day.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) recognized Philippines’ sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea or areas of the South China Sea that lie within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Those who took part of the protest were members of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) and patriotic alliance Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS).
Bobby Roldan, PAMALAKAYA-Bataan spokesperson, lamented that they cannot still fish because of China’s intimidation, saying two Chinese fishing vessels are stationed in the shoal’s lagoon which is considered as the resource-rich area.
He said that the Scarborough Shoal located in Zambales is a traditional fishing ground for thousands of fisherfolk in Central Luzon.
“We can’t still fish in peace courtesy of China’s intimidating presence in our fishing waters. There were reported direct harassments of Chinese personnel towards the Filipino fishers and even presence of Chinese warships in Scarborough Shoal, and yet we don’t hear any condemnation from the Duterte administration. This is clearly a concerted effort of China and the Duterte government to militarize the West Philippine Sea at the cost of fishing rights and security of our fisherfolk,” Roldan said.
In spite of the PCA’s decision, he said that China’s military construction and reclamation in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf (ECS) are still rampant, affecting the fishing rights of Filipino fishermen.
Also, PAMALAKAYA criticized the presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels and warships near Scarborough Shoal.
“China’s occupation of our marine territory is a clear bastardization of the independence that our ancestral heroes have died for. There is no independence if a foreign power has direct control over our marine territory. We call on the patriotic Filipino people to stand united and collectively assert our sovereign and territorial rights to China as well as to other foreign nations who will try to violate our rights as a nation,” he ended.