The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is calling on Filipino fishermen to flock to their traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and make their presence felt – despite the menacing presence of the Chinese who have been doing their best to keep interlopers out of their illegally-claimed maritime territory – to take advantage of the vast marine resources there.
BFAR director Eduardo Gongona said the fishermen really have no reason to fear from the Chinese coast guard ships in the area since they are not engaged in any hostile activities, but are only there to fish as a means of livelihood.
Speaking during a GMA news interview last week, Gongona said there is really much to go around as an estimated 300,000 metric tons of fish, or some 7 percent of the country’s yearly consumption, is sourced from the WPS.
Earlier, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Armed Forces chief General Cirilito Sobejana assured fishermen not to be scared in going out to the WPS as the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard are there to protect them.
While this is indeed welcome news, the Agham partylist group raised credible doubts regarding the ability of responsible authorities in making sure Filipino fishermen are totally safe from any Chinese aggression.
“Alam naman natin kung gaano kalaki yung armas ng mga Chinese,” they said.
The BFAR’s “swarm-the-WPS” call dovetails with the observation raised by a group of congressmen recently who said the continued presence of dozens of China-flagged militia-fishing vessels inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the WPS is tantamount to “economic sabotage” which is causing untold billions of pesos in damage to its fragile ecosystems.
“Why would hundreds of ships converge in one spot for months if there is no economic gain for them? Their continued presence there indicates that they are stealing our valuable resources,” according to Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers.
Barbers called on the government to protect the nation’s precious resources from Chinese encroachment as it could be the key to economic recovery and “freeing the people from poverty.”
Several of Barbers’ colleagues likewise described China as an “intruder” in the PH’s exclusive economic zone.
“They are the interloper and they should leave,” Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said.
He said that it is “ridiculous” for China to demand that Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and BFAR vessels leave the WPS and “respect” its sovereignty over the disputed area.