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Fishers group questions government’s ‘special treatment’ of Chinese ships

A fisherfolks group questioned the so-called special treatment given by the government to the Chinese ships roaming in the West Philippine Sea. 

Pamalakaya, the national federation of fisherfolk organizations in the Philippines, questioned the lame actions of the government against the Chinese encroachment in Philippine waters. 

Bakit kung kami ay nangingisda sa ating pangisdaan, binobomba kami ng tubig? Walang ginagawa ang ating gobyerno para kami ay ipagtanggol,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Pedro Gonzales said during the press conference organized by Atin Ang Pinas coalition on April 7. 

(How come when we were fishing in our area, we were water cannoned [by Chinese authorities]? The government did nothing to protect us.)

On March 21, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said it received verified reports from the Philippine Coast Guard that about 220 Chinese fishing vessels were sighted near the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) on March 7.

The following day, March 22, the military confirmed the presence of at least 183 Chinese ships in the reef located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.

Pamalakaya also slammed the claim of the Chinese government that the vessels were moored in the reef due to “inclement weather.”

“No one buys the narrative that Chinese vessels are only seeking shelter, because it’s a blatant display of military might bordering on military aggression,” Gonzales said in a separate statement. 

China claimed that the vessels were just taking shelter in the reef because of bad weather – though it had been observed that the Philippines has had good weather for the past weeks. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated the Philippines’ demand for Chinese ships to leave the reef because they have no reason to "take shelter" amid good weather.

“I am no fool. The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (leave now),” Lorenzana said in a statement on April 3. 

On April 2, AGHAM - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, a national group of Science and Technology professionals, said territorial disputes could lead to the collapse of the fishing industry.

The group also said that Chinese activities in the disputed seascapes resulted in at least 16,000 hectares of destroyed reefs as of 2017.

The damage is estimated to reach up to P33.1 billion per year if the encroachment continues. – Rappler.com