Coast guard escorts sought for Filipinos fishing in WPS

Published April 28, 2021, 6:24 PM

by Ben Rosario

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Wednesday, April 28, asked government to deploy the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea to escort Filipino fishermen.

Zarate aired the appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte as he strongly condemned China for harassing and seizing the catch of Filipino fishermen from waters covered by the Philippine territory in Bajo de Masinloc and other parts of WPS.

“Send our coast guards now to escort our fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)!”, said as he dared Duterte to take immediate action in protecting the rights of Filipino fishermen.

He chided the Duterte administration for its “lackadaisical actions in defending our Filipino fishermen and national sovereignty.” “We call on the Duterte administration to send the Philippine coast guard, not just for momentary drills, but more importantly to accompany or escort our hapless fisherfolk at Bajo de Masinloc and in the other areas where we have valid claims in the West Philippine Sea,” Zarate said in a press statement.

“We have to show China that we are serious in defending our people as well as our territory. Our officials should always assert our independence, instead of them acting as apologists for China, who apparently now treat the Philippines as her vassal state,” he said.

“China is apparently treating the Duterte administration as a push over by doing what they want in Bajo de Masinloc and the rest of the West Philippine Sea without nary a whimper from Pres.Duterte,” the opposition lawmaker noted.

However, he made it clear that his proposal should not be misunderstood as a bid to go on war against China, a world superpower.

“We are not saying that we declare war on China. But what we need is for Pres.Duterte to stand up for our fisherfolks and our territory,” he said.

Zarate stated: “We have already suggested in the past the increasing of patrols of our seas, among others. One thing is clear though, the government must do something now to stop this invasion of China.” However, the partylist solon also assailed plans of the United States and its allies to intensify and expand its naval patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in a bid to challenge China’s military build-up in the area.

“The situation in the WPS is already getting serious. The US and China should stop their sabre rattling so as to lessen the tension in the area,” stated Zarate.

“The Philippines along with other claimants in the area are in a situation akin to having two (2) bullies in their backyard raring for a fight and thrash each other without regard for the backyard or the nearby houses and their residents,” he said.

“We are again calling our neighbors and fellow claimants like Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia together with the Philippines to band together and stand up against these bullies. We are also asking the international community to step in and pressure the US and China to demilitarize and de-escalate the tension in the region,” the opposition leader stressed.