Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares and Representative Carlos Zarate today accused the Duterte administration of sacrificing the interests of Filipino fisherfolk in exchange for billions in loans from China.
“Secretary Panelo’s statement yesterday show the administration’s utterly defeatist stance on the plight of our fishermen in the West PH Sea. Faced with various testimonies about the China Coast Guard’s atrocities against our fisherfolk, all Panelo could come up with is ‘show us proof.’ In the law school where I came from, testimonial evidence is proof,” said Colmenares, who is president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
Last Saturday, March 23, Colmenares uploaded on social media his documentary on the plight of fishermen in Masinloc, Zambales. The six-minute video was directed by acclaimed filmaker Kip Oebanda and was shot on February 16 this year.
In the video, the fishermen narrated how they were being shooed away by Chinese authorities from fishing in Panatag shoal. One fisherman recounted how their catch had been reduced from 20 tons to only two tons per trip because Chinese authorities would destroy their fishing gear and use water canons, resulting in one instance where their boat sunk.
Another fisherman reported that the Chinese had blocked the entrance to the lagoon and deployed eight ships to prevent Filipino fishermen from approaching the shoal, which is their traditional fishing area.
As a result, they now have to scramble over the little catch in municipal waters and could hardly feed their families or send their children to school.
“I’m sure the government is aware of this. Pres. Duterte does not even have to ride a jetski to Panatag Shoal to know the real situation. He can just send the Air Force to see what our fishefolk are experiencing under China’s de-facto occupation of Panatag,” said Colmenares.
“Panelo should not dismiss the complaints of our fisherfolk. We are told even the local government officials in Zambales and Pangasinan are paralyzed and awaiting word from the Palace on what to do with the complaints of our fisherfolk. Ang Malacañang daw ang hinihintay nila na kumilos,” he said.
“But I guess the President has become blinded by the billions of money being offered by China for his pet projects. He has apparently decided that the interests of our fisherfolk is less important than getting loans from China, despite their onerous and highly irregular, if not illegal, conditions,” stressed the former lawmaker.
Colmenares and Zarate reiterated their demand for the government to take a stronger stance against China’s occupation of Panatag Shoal and several other features in the West PH Sea. “Bakit ang Vietnam at Malaysia, hindi naman sila nanalo sa UN Arbitral Court, ay mas malakas ang boses at talagang umaalma?”
“We have the international community on our side. Pres. Duterte should drop his defeatist attitude, take a strong position against China’s expansionism, and rally the international community to support us,” they said.#