WPS

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May 24, 2024 People's Journal 97 views

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday asserted that Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal is part of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines and Filipinos should be allowed to fish there without fear of being harassed or bullied by the Chinese.

In a message to Zambales fishermen and local officials read by Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Speaker Romualdez called for unity in fighting for the rights of fishermen in the province and nearby Pangasinan to fish in their traditional fishing ground.

“Muli, hindi kayo nag-iisa sa pagharap sa mga banta ng China. Magkaisa tayo at patuloy nating ipaglaban ang ating karapatan na mangisda sa Bajo de Masinloc. Alam natin na ito ay bahagi ng ating teritoryo at pag-aari ng Pilipinas,” he said.

Scarborough Shoal was seized by the Chinese in 2012 after a standoff between the Chinese Coast Guard and the Philippine Coast Guard.

The Chinese have since been routinely bullying away Filipinos fishing in that area.

Speaker Romualdez’s message was read during the hearing in Masinloc town of the committee on national defense and security and the special committee on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) of the House of Representatives on the alleged secret deal of former President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the WPS.

The leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives said Filipino fishermen are not alone in fighting for their right to their livelihood in Bajo de Masinloc.

“Hindi kayo nag-iisa sa laban na ito. Kasama natin ang iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan, nariyan po ang inyong mga Congressman na sina Representative Jefferson Khonghun at Representative Doris Maniquiz. Bukas po ang kanilang tangapan sa anumangg agam-agam na nais nyong idulog sa kanila,” he said.

He said the Philippine Coast Guard continues to carry out its mandate to protect Filipino fishermen.

“Kaagapay nyo rin po ang Philippine Coast Guard na kasama niyo sa karagatan at patuloy na magbabantay para inyong kapakanan,” he said.

He also cited the support extended by the country’s allies, and most importantly, by President Marcos Jr.

“Maging ang mga kaalyado sa pandaigdigang komunidad, ay nagbabantay at kasama natin sa labang ito. At higit sa lahat, ang ating mahal na Pangulong Ferdinand Bongbong R. Marcos Jr. ay nasa inyong likod at kailanman ay hinding-hindi kayo pababayaan,” Speaker Romualdez said.

He paid tribute to the fishermen, saying he knew the threat of harassment they faced from the Chinese.

“Bilang mga mangingisda, kayo ang puso ng ating bayan. Sa gitna ng mga hamon, batid kong araw-araw kayong humaharap sa malaking alon upang itaguyod ang inyong mga pamilya,” he said.

“Ngayon po’y nais kong bigyang-diin ang isang mahalagang isyu na patuloy ninyong hinaharap sa tuwing kayo’y pumapalaot sa Bajo de Masinloc. Ito ay ang banta ng China sa ating teritoryo at karapatan sa pangingisda,” he added.

The Masinloc hearing was presided over by Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas, defense committee chairman, and Gonzales for the Special Committee on the West Philippine Sea.

Aside from Senior Deputy Speaker Gonzales, House members who participated in the inquiry were Dan Fernandez of Laguna, Zia Alonto Adiong of Lanao del Sur, Jurdin Jesus Romualdo of Camiguin, Jose Aquino ll of Agusan del Norte, Adrian Jay Advincula of Cavite;

Jonathan Keith Flores of Bukidnon, Johnny Ty Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez of 1-RIDER Party-list, Ernesto Dionisio Jr. of Manila, Doris Maniquiz of Zambales, and Francisco Paolo Ortega of La Union.

Local officials who expressed their concerns on what is happening in Bajo de Masinloc to lawmakers included Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane of Zambales and Mayor Arsenia Lim of Masinloc.

Philippine Coast Guard officials also attended the hearing.

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