Senator Risa Hontiveros has appealed for stronger protections for Filipino fisherfolk suffering harassment in the West Philippine Sea, as she called on the Department of National Defense (DND) to strengthen support for the Philippine Navy.
“Let us show these Chinese bullies that we will not back down. Time and again, our Filipino fisherfolks are being harassed in our own waters. Kailangan proactive ang pag-protekta natin sa ating mga mangingisda. Kaya dapat lang na ang ating Navy, ang frontliners sa pagprotekta sa kanila, ay makatanggap ng maigting na suporta,” Hontiveros said.
According to the senator, commercial fishermen, especially those from Zambales, want safety and security from intimidation from the Chinese coast guard and maritime militia who have been forcibly seizing their catch.
“Dapat may kapasidad ang ating Navy o Coast Guard na i-escort ang ating mga mangingisda sa ating sariling karagatan. Maraming Pilipino ang hindi na nakakapaghanapbuhay dahil sa takot sa mga Chinese militia na tumataboy at nambu-bully sa kanila. Mainam na may kasangga at protektor ang ating mangingisda sa kanilang pakikipagsapalaran sa gitna ng laot,” the senator explained.
Hontiveros also cited the Chinese Coast Guard’s illegal confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s “payaos” or fish aggregating devices in Zambales which prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic protest against China lodged in August.
However, Hontiveros believes more can be done: “Maliban sa diplomatic protest, dapat nakikita rin ng Chinese Coast Guard na ang ating sariling mga gwardiya ay kayang tumindig laban sa kanila. Huwag nating sanayin ang Chinese militia sa ating pananahimik at pagsasawalang kibo. They need to know that our navies are just as ready to stand up to them,” Hontiveros said, reinforcing her push for support for maritime officers.
The senator, who slammed China’s radio challenges to a Philippine aircraft conducting regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, also underscored the need for the DND to send patrols or join joint patrols with other navies in the area.
“China is too used to getting its way, even at the expense of others. Kahit sa gitna ng pandemya, mukhang hindi sila huminto sa pag-angkin ng ating karagatan, teritoryo, at likas-yaman. The DND should, at once, intensify our defense against China’s incessant intrusion. Gawin natin ito para sa mangingisdang Pilipino. Gawin natin ito para sa Pilipinas,” Hontiveros concluded. SENATE.GOV.PH