By Kalapinay Moreno, Franklin Roosevelt Dimaguiba and Gerry Albert Corpuz
Manila, Philippines- The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya mh Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday asked the Chinese government to refrain from harassing Filipino fishermen returning to Scarborough Shoal to catch fish in the disputed waters some 220 kilometers west of Zambales.
In a press statement Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap appealed to China's Prime Ministerto instruct Chinese naval patrol forces currently deployed in Scarborough Shoal to cease and desist from scaring or terrorizing the Filipino fishermen coming back to Scarborough Shoal for fish and livelihood.
"Our fisherfolk are asserting their sovereign rights and livelihood rights. The Beijing government should recognize and respect our fishermen asserting these political and sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal. Please allow us to remind the Chinese premier that it is not the puppet government of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III who is asserting these rights. The one who is collectively asserting these rights are the small Filipino fisherofolk and this should merit the full recognition of the Beijing government," said Hicap, also the vice chairperson of Anakpawis party list.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday said Filipino fishermen have returned to Panatag Shoal,. sharing the disputed waters with their Chinese fisherfolk colleagues under the careful watch of the Philippine and Chinese maritime ships. Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, chief of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) reported that six Filipino fishing boats were anchored on Sunday in the lagoon found in the middle of a cluster of reefs and islands in the area.
This was the first time the Philippine military reported the presence of Filipino fishermen in the area since the standoff began on April 10 when two Chinese surveillance ships stopped the Philippine Navy from accompanying eight Chinese fishing boats loaded with poached marine species.
“We take pride in congratulating our fisherfolk colleagues for asserting the country’s sovereign rights and territorial integrity. As far as we are concerned, our fishing peers are the ones who champion the cause of national sovereignty and territorial integrity and not the Manila government under the Benigno Simeon Aquino III presidency,” said Pamalakaya.
Pamalakaya said Filipino fishermen are persistent to fish in Panatag Shoal because they believe it is part of the country’s territorial waters and therefore they have rights to catch fish, but Malacanang through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are discouraging our small fishermen from asserting their sovereign rights to territorial waters which are part of the country’s 220-mile exclusive economic zone or EEZ.
“If the Manila government believes Panatag Shoal is our territory, then there is no reason why it should discourage small fishermen from exercising their sovereign rights over this productive and rich fishing area. The government is engaged in an anti-China scare campaign to justify the near future deployment of US troops in West Philippine Sea at the expense of Filipino people asserting their sovereign rights and a nation of more than 90 million people protecting its territorial dignity from any foreign intruder,” the Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance said.
Foreign affairs and fishery officials had advised fishermen not to get near Scarborough Shoal for their own safety and avoid escalation of the current tension between Chinese and Filipino military naval forces who are still locked in a political-military standoff in Scarborough Shoal since last week.
Two weeks ago, Pamalakaya filed its own diplomatic protest against China for employing dirty politics, sheer arrogance and political bullying against the Philippines over the issue on Scarborough Shoal.
In their protest letter emailed to China’s envoy to the Philippines- Ambassador Ma Keqiing, the militant group said it wished to inform the Beijing government that in strongest terms it condemns the perpetual arrogance and political bullying of China despite repeated calls from the Filipino people to ease the political tension.
“Madam Ambassador, the display of Chinese military might in Scarborough Shoal and the scene scaring small Filipino fisherfolk sourcing their livelihood from the productive fishing area through the use of battle ready warships and psywar flying aircrafts is something that we cannot stomach and accept. This is beyond political humility, out of reason, tyrannical and grossly incorrigible,” said Pamalakaya.
Pamalakaya told the Chinese envoy that the Filipino fisherfolk join the entire nation in asserting the people’s sovereign rights on Scarborough Shoal and parts of the Spratly regime of island belong to the Philippine territory.
The group maintained Panatag Shoal is within the country’s exclusive economic zone and Beijing bullying will affect fishing activities of not less than 200,000 small fishermen and commercial fishing operations in Zambales Bay and nearby Lingayen Gulf that encompass the coastal provinces of Zambales, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.
In their letter of appeal, Pamalakaya said China’s arrogance and bullying act in Scarborough Shoal and the Philippine government’s unyielding puppetry to Washington are doing both disservice to both Chinese and Filipino people, and such political errors of ruling governments in China and the Philippines are giving way to US destructive agenda and cruel intentions in Asia and the Pacific region.