SAN NARCISO, Zambales — Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday, April 19, committed to protect the fisherfolk here who usually get into conflicts with Chinese fishing vessels in nearby West Philippine Sea (WPS), and highlighted the need to strengthen the capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in ensuring the seas remain open for Filipino fishermen.
By equipping fishermen in Masinloc, Zambales with modern fishing gear through the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) Angat Buhay program, the fisherfolk there was able to continue their livelihood despite inclement weather and against the threat of bigger Chinese fishing vessels.
Masinloc made headlines in 2012 during the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) between Philippine and Chinese navies.
“Ang paniniwala ko dapat ‘yung pamahalaan (sumusuporta) kasi maraming problema doon kasi iniistorbo sila ng mga (My belief is that the government should provide support because there are a lot of problems there since they are being bothered by) Chinese fishing vessels. Hindi nakakabuwelo (They’re unable to move),” Robredo told the crowd during the multi-sectoral assembly held at the Brgy. La Paz Covered Court in San Narciso.
“So, para sa akin dapat tinututukan ito ng pamahalaan hindi lang sa pagsiguro na ‘yung mga karagatan natin nakakapangisda ‘yung mga mangingisda natin ng libre, pero tinutulungan sila magkaroon ng mga fishing boats na kayang pumunta sa malayo para nakakapangisda sila ng maayos (So, for me, the government needs to focus not only in making sure that our fishermen can freely fish in our seas, but helping them have fishing boats that can reach far so they can fish better),” she added.
Robredo also promised to strengthen the capabilities of the PCG, which mans the seas against Chinese aggression in the traditional fishing grounds for Filipino fishermen.
She said that once the PCG is well-equipped, no one can bully Filipinos anymore as they try to make a living in the resource-rich waters off the coast of Zambales.
But the Vice President is not just equipping the fishermen and the PCG to protect themselves and the fishing grounds against Chinese assertions of their claims.
“Pangalawa, dapat bigyan kayo ng (Second, you should be given) alternative means of livelihood na pag masama ang panahon meron kayong ibang puwedeng gawin dahil hindi kayo nakakapangisda (that, when the weather is bad, you have something to do when you cannot fish),” she added.