The Philippine government should defend and give protection to Filipino fishermen sailing in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in order to maintain the country’s presence amid the heightened tension in the disputed areas, a maritime expert said on Thursday, April 29.
Professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the strategy of China is to drive away Filipino fishermen so that the country will lose its presence in the disputed areas.
“Ang stratehiya ng China eh paalisin ang ating mga mangingisda para mawalan tayo ng presence doon sa lugar at kung wala tayong presence or civilian presence nagagawa nila kung ano ang gusto nila (China’s strategy is to drive away our fishermen so that we lose our presence in the area and if we don’t have any presence or civilian presence in the WPS they can do what they want),” Batongbacal said in an interview over ABS CBN’s Teleradyo.
The maritime expert has called the government to provide assistance and protection for the Filipino fishermen to encourage them to continue fishing in the WPS.
“After mga 1980s to 1990s parang nabawasan po talaga ang ating presensya dyan dahil natatakot sila doon sa kabila dahil dumadami sila at lumalakas sila at yung pangisdaan eh inuubos ng kabila kaya hindi na nila nababalikan so dapat lang po na sabihan ng ating gobyerno ang ating mga mangingisda na lumayag sila at dapat din silang bigyan ng protection (After the 1980s to 1990s, it seems that our presence there really decreased because Filipino fishermen were afraid that China’s presence was getting stronger and the fisheries are being depleted, so they were not coming back there, so our government should encourage and tell our people that they should continue to fish there and they should also be given protection),” Batongbacal said.
Batongbacal urged the government ships including the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to conduct more maritime exercises and patrol to prevent China from interfering with the Filipino fishermen.
“Nagkakaroon ng tesyon noong mga nakaraang taon eh yung China kasi nagiinterfere siya doon sa ating mga fishermen pinapaputukan pa nga ng warning shot, meron pang mga mga binangga, binabantaan, at binoblock yung kanilang layag yun po ang nagcacause ng tension hindi yung ating mga government ships (There has been tension in recent years because China interfered with our fishermen, they even fire warning shots, collide, threaten, and block their sails, that is the cause of the tension, not our government ships),” he added.
On March 7, over 220 Chinese vessels were discovered in mass formation at the Julian Felipe Reef. It later dispersed to Kalayaan Island Group and other parts of the WPS.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has repeatedly filed diplomatic protests against the repeated incursion of Chinese vessels in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).