Filipino youth assert rights over West Philippine Sea
A youth movement has urged the Filipino youth to help preserve water bodies in the country, with the fight to push for the rights of Filipino fishermen to resources in the West Philippine Sea at the forefront of the campaign, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.
“Dapat tayo mismong mga Filipino yung nakakatanggap ng mga natural na yaman ng ating bansa. Tulungan natin ang mangingisdang Pilipino na magkaroon ng lugar para sa kanilang pagkakakitaan. (Filipinos should be the ones who should benefit from the Philippines’ natural resources. Let us unite in helping Filipino fishermen have a safe place for their livelihood),” Jericho Quidez said in a documentary.
Quidez is among the 100 youths who were part of the pioneering batch of the Kabataang Makadagat created in October 2020.
The group cited the crucial role of the youth in the campaign to preserve Scarborough, also known as Panatag shoal.
In the documentary “Ang Batang Anak Ng Dagat”, Quidez said his father was last seen on Sept. 30, 2012 along with eight of his colleagues when they sailed to catch fish in Panatag.
It was in the same year the Philippines figured in a standoff against China at Scarborough shoal off Zambales province.
“Bata pa ako, nakakain kami ng lobster dala ni Papa galing siyang mangisda sa Scarborough. May nahuhuli din sila sa Panatag. Doon ko nasabi na kaya naman pala ng normal na pamilyang Pilipino na makatikim ng ganito, sagana talaga ang yamang dagat doon. (When I was younger, my father would bring home lobster after fishing at Scarborough. That’s when I realized that even normal Filipino families can have it for dinner, that our water resources are bountiful),” he shared.
However, his father, along with other fishermen, were not able to return home.
The weather went rough after some days when the group sailed.
“Before, ang Panatag Shoal pinupuntahan ng mga mangingisda (Filipino) kapag masama ang panahon kasi nga banayad ang alon doon kahit may bagyo kaya sya tinawag na panatag. Paikot kasi yung island. Pero nagstart talaga noong 2012, grabe na yung ginagawang bullying sa kanila. Binobomba na sila ng tubig ng mga Chinese coast guards at hinaharang na yung pagpasok nila sa shoal (When things were fine, Filipino fishermen would find refuge in Panatag shoal during storms because the water is calm, that’s why it gained the name “panatag” [tranquil, undisturbed]. The island is like shape of a horse shoe. But in 2012, bullying intensified. Chinese coast guards would point water guns at them and they would block the passage to the shoal, their safe haven),” he added.
The group has sought recommendation for the creation of Kabataang Makadagat and suggested that it should be a nationwide movement – an organization that fights for the protection of the marine ecology and treasures of the Philippine archipelago.
Presence during pandemic
Meanwhile, a Washington-based group of experts said the Chinese Coast Guard has increased its presence in the West Philippine Sea at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently reported that Chinese forces conducted patrols at Scarborough Shoal for a total of 287 days from Dec. 1, 2019.
“At least one Chinese Coast Guard ship, often two, would broadcast Automatic Identification System data from Scarborough Shoal during this period, analyzing information collected by the tracking service MarineTraffic," it said.
In August 2019, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated his stand on the Philippines’ “possession” and “position” in the West Philippine Sea.
“While China may have an advantage in the South China Sea because of its existing structures built on artificial islands, which it has hardened and militarized, it is in position, and to a certain degree, has possession of only a very small part of the South China Sea,” he said.
Lorenzana said the Philippines also has “possession and position” in the West Philippine Sea, adding that possession, position, and control are different realities that do not necessarily exist together.
“Although several claimant countries are occupying features in the South China Sea, not one of them has complete and sole control over that entire body of water,” he added.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the Department of National Defense has scaled up existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea particularly in Pag-asa, its biggest island.
DND said the move aims to accommodate more residents and personnel.
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