THE WAY I SEE IT | Susan Amoroso
The price of our seafood has gone up tremendously in the last five years since the Chinese flagged vessels keep stationing themselves in the West Philippine Sea, the Scarborough Shoal and the Julian Felipe Reef. One of the biggest military facilities in the world has been built by China near the Philippine shores in the West Philippine Sea. In recent months more than 200 China flagged vessels cruised and stationed themselves in the Julian Felipe Reef. China also imposed a fishing ban until August 16, 2021 in the South China Sea which included waters within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Why is China imposing a fishing ban on our own waters? Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, has since issued numerous diplomatic protests against China on these issues.
There were reports that thousands of tons of different kinds of fishes, shellfish and other marine bounties were harvested by these Chinese vessels on a regular basis. Some of their catches include endangered marine species found only in the Philippine waters. The beautiful marine life underneath these waters that lie within the so called Philippine exclusive economic zones (EEZs) may be endangered by the presence of these Chinese flagged vessels. To my mind, the marine produce which the 110 million Filipinos also need are being exploited and harvested by these Chinese vessels. And to make matters worse, the presence of China’s military ships facilitate these activities. As a result, the livelihood of our local fishermen and our marine resources is being depleted and destroyed.
Before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, many news outlets report about natural calamities befalling China. Torrential floods, drought, hail, storms, locusts infestation and the deadly swine fever have devastated this country of 1.2 billion people. Crops, poultry and livestock, homes , buildings, bridges and roads were destroyed by these natural calamities that only the heavens can control.
The government of China will have to find ways and means to feed their people. I think the government of China has shot two birds with one stone by stationing themselves near the shores of our country. The Chinese exploit and harvest the fishes and marine life in the Philippines’ EEZs which to my mind should have benefited the Filipino fishermen and the Filipino people. China claims all these activities fall within their nine- dash -line territorial waters. The China claim has been declared unacceptable and unlawful under the rules of the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS a few years back. Unfortunately, China would not budge and ignored the arbitral ruling.
While the Philippines won in the arbitral ruling regarding the nine-dash-line claim of China, the Philippines is still in a disadvantaged position because of the presence of China military facilities in the artificial islands they built within the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines.
Peaceful coexistence and rule of law is what all countries profess. Nobody wants to go to war. No small country like the Philippines would want to tangle with a big country like China. But China, like most countries, must respect the rule of law. Peaceful co-existence and cooperation must prevail. Going by that onus, I daresay China must not harm the Philippine coast guard and Filipino fishermen when they fish in our EEZs. The coastguards must protect our fishermen when they go fishing within Philippine waters in our EEZs. That’s what coastguards are for. In fact, the Bureau of Fisheries supports that activity of guarding and protecting our fishermen, our shores and our natural resources.
Our fishermen have been lamenting the sorry state of their livelihood. According to them since the presence of these Chinese vessels began cruising along our waters, their harvests have become scarce. The catch of our small fishermen at times is not even enough to pay for their operations which include diesel, food and fishing gears.
China can not flex its muscles arbitrarily just because they have become strong militarily and economically. China must respect us even if we are a small country. The Philippines has allies around the world and stands in a community of nations that promote peaceful co-existence and freedom of navigation.