Fishing shelters, ports in WPS urged

April 3, 2024 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 105 views

IN line with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr.’s issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 57 bolstering the Philippine maritime security, and amid China’s recurring aggressions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee has called for the urgent passage of a measure to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and improve the lives of fisherfolk.

Under House Bill (HB) No. 9011 or the “Fishing Shelters and Ports Act,” the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), in coordination with the Department of National Defense (DND) and other relevant government agencies, shall establish fishing shelters and ports in nine occupied maritime features in the WPS and the Philippine Rise.

The fishing shelters and ports to be established in the islands of Lawak, Kota, Likas, Pag-asa, Parola, Panata, Patag, Rizal Reef, and Ayungin Shoal will serve as safe spots for fishermen to take refuge from foreign militia or unforeseen circumstances, a place where they can rest, store gears and supplies, as well as access communication devices.

“Hindi po tayo pwedeng magwalang kibo na lang sa pambubully sa atin ng dayuhan sa ating sariling bakuran. Kailangang protektahan ang buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga mangingisda, at suportahan ang ating kasundaluhan na buwis-buhay na nagbabantay at nangangalaga sa ating teritoryo,” the Bicolano lawmaker said.

Lee’s measure is aligned with the EO recently signed by the President which creates the National Maritime Council (NMC) to “strengthen the country’s maritime security and maritime domain awareness.”

EO 57 was released two days after China Coast Guard (CCG) ships once again bombarded with water cannon a Philippine-commissioned vessel that was on a resupply mission to Filipino troops stationed on Ayungin Shoal.

“Despite efforts to promote stability and security in our maritime domain, the Philippines continues to confront a range of serious challenges that threaten not only the country’s territorial integrity, but also the peaceful existence of Filipinos, including their fundamental right to live in peace and freedom, free from fear of violence and threat,” the President said.

Lee underscored the importance of his proposed measure in upholding national sovereignty and easing the plight of Filipino fisherfolk, saying: “nakataya dito ang integridad ng ating teritoryo, ang dignidad at kabuhayan ng Pilipino.”

“This measure can sustainably ensure and send a loud message that the WPS and the Philippine Rise are ours, atin ito!” he stressed.

“Our territorial waters are vulnerable, so are the lives of our fishermen—our food security soldiers. It is the government’s responsibility to support them and protect their rights from foreign interference in order for them to continue their traditional fishing rights and improve their livelihood.”

“Winner tayong lahat sa pagsasabatas ng panukalang ito, kung saan matutugunan ang banta sa kabuhayan, mababawasan ang pangamba sa gutom at alalahanin na walang panggastos sa panahon ng pangangailangan tulad ng pagkakasakit sa pamilya,” he added.