Roque eyes trip to Bajo de Masinloc, Kalayaan islands

Published July 15, 2021, 1:38 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque revealed his plans to go to Bajo de Masinloc and the Kalayaan Islands in the West Philippine Sea to check if Filipinos were really being barred from fishing in the disputed waters.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and some Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (Photo screenshot from Palace press briefing on July 15, 2021)

Roque made the statement following reports that Chinese vessels were prohibiting Filipino fishermen from pursuing their livelihood in the West Philippine Sea.

In his press briefing on Thursday, July 15, Roque said he wanted to go to Bajo de Masinloc and Kalayaan Islands even before fisherfolk organization Pamalakaya challenged him to join fishermen to experience the situation first-hand.

“Hindi ko po kinakailangan na kahit sinong humamon. Matagal ko na pong gustong pumunta roon (I don’t need anybody to challenge him. I’ve been wanting to go there),” he said.

He even asked his undersecretary to arrange the logistics of his trip.

“Can I ask Undersecretary to arrange our trip to Bajo de Masinloc and Kalayaan? Matagal ko na po gustong makarating diyan (I’ve been wanting to go there),” Roque said.

“Bago matapos ang termino ni Presidente sana magkaroon po ng katuparan. Pero pupunta po ako diyan dahil gusto kong pumunta, hindi dahil meron pong paghahamon ng kahit sino (I hope it comes true before the term of the President ends. But I will go there because I wanted to, not because someone challenged me),” he added.

Photographic proof

Meanwhile, Roque presented photos of members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) with some Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea to debunk the reports.

“Nakita po natin ang larawan ng Coast Guard na kinuha kahapon lamang. Sa tingin ko naman malinaw na malinaw na nakakapangisda po ang ating mga kababayan (We saw photos from the PSG that were taken yesterday. With these, I think it’s clear that Filipinos were able to fish there),” he said.

The Palace official expressed confidence that the PCG will not make false claims about the situation in the disputed waters.

“Nandoon po ang Philippine Coast Guard kung merong aberya sa ating mga kababayan (The PCG is there in case our fellow Filipinos encounter trouble in the area),” Roque said.

“Mga public officers po ‘yan, nanumpa po ‘yan na tutuparin ang batas, ang aitng Saligang Batas… ‘Pag ang public officer po ang nagsalita, meron naman pong weight ‘yan kumbaga (They are public officers who took an oath to uphold the law and out Constitution. When a public officer speaks, it should have weight),” he added.

On Monday, July 12, Roque disputed the claims of some Filipino fishermen that they were barred from entering parts of the West Philippine Sea. This report came on the fifth anniversary of the historic Tribunal Award that favored the Philippines’ claim on the disputed waters.

According to Roque, he was continuously communicating with his former clients even with the local government unit (LGU) of Masinloc in Zambales and other Pangasinan LGUs.

“Alam ko po (I know), I have personal knowledge, na halos lahat po sila ay nakabalik na sa kanilang hanapbuhay, lalung-lalo na diyan sa Borough (that almost all of them were able to pursue their livelihoods there, especially in the Scarborough Shoal),” he said.

“I just recently met with the mayor two weeks ago precisely to inquire on the welfare of the fishermen pursuing their livelihoods in Borough and there are no reports they can no longer pursue their livelihoods,” he added.