MANILA, Philippines – More than 230 alumni, faculty, and students of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS) of the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) signed a unity statement to condemn the Duterte administration’s “utter disrespect” for Filipino fishermen.
The UPV CFOS Student Council posted the unity statement on Tuesday, June 25, to point out the “oppressive actions” of the Duterte administration towards the 22 Filipino fishermen who were left to fight for their survival after their boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank (Reed Bank).
The UPV CFOS Student Council called for full accountability not only from the crew of the Chinese vessel but also from the Duterte administration for “betraying the trust of our fisherfolk, the constituents whom the government should be protecting and serving.” (READ: Youth groups slam government’s ‘inaction’ on sinking of Philippine boat)
President Rodrigo Duterte had described the sinking of the Philippine boat as a mere “maritime incident.” Some Philippine officials have also held back in condemning China for the boat sinking, while others cast doubts on claims made by the Filipino fishermen.
“The recent incident just proves how Filipino fishers are treated with utter disrespect and afforded little dignity by the Chinese fishers,” UPV CFOS Student Council said.
The sinking of the Philippine fishing boat is not the first clash between Chinese and Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In 2018, videos show that the China Coast Guard has been habitually taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the coast of Zambales province. Duterte also downplayed the incident, saying it was a “barter” exchange.
The UPV CFOS Student Council asserted that the government’s response to issues involving China shows that Duterte “will never side with the Filipinos but is instead willing to forego serious matters where the Chinese are concerned.”
Aside from rifts with China in the West Philippine Sea, UPV CFOS Student Council listed several efforts of the administration that hampered the fisheries sector in the Philippines. Among these were the TRAIN law which further burdened and impoverished poor fishermen, and the importation of 17,000 metric tons of galunggong which created competition in the local market and put the fisherfolk in an even more dire situation.
“We cannot wait for any more blatant disregard of our fisherfolk before taking a stand against these oppressive responses of the Duterte administration,” UPV CFOS Student Council said in its unity statement.
“Seeing how the government treats the fisheries sector and the fisherfolk, we are inclined to believe that this administration puts the interest of the Chinese first rather than making the Filipino fishers and WPS a priority,” they added.
UPV CFOS Student Council urged concerned students, faculty, and alumni of the college to fill out the form to be included among the list of signatories to the unity statement.
“Our fisherfolk are among the poorest and most vulnerable sector in the society. Let us translate our anger into concrete collective action,” they said.
The UPV CFOS Student Council is not alone in voicing out their stand on the sinking of the Philippine boat. Both the UPV College of Arts and Sciences Student Council and the Iloilo chapter of All UP Academic Employees Union urged the UP Visayas community to voice out their support to the fisheries sector.
“UP Visayas cannot be silent on this issue that directly affects the fisheries sector. The main reason for the existence of CFOS is precisely to address the lot of the poorest sector – the Filipino fishers. Hence, a voiceless university during this extreme circumstance is like a silent clinging barnacle,” said the All UP Academic Employees Union Iloilo chapter in its statement. – Rappler.com
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