January 4, 2023
MANILA – A fisherfolk group on Tuesday urged President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to embody “strong political will” and prioritize asserting the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea during his three-day state visit to China.
Marcos, together with First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and his Philippine delegation, will be in Beijing from Jan. 3 to 5 for his first state visit to a country outside of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), challenged Marcos not to miss the chance of pushing back on China’s encroachment in Philippine waters.
“Kinakailangan lamang ang malakas na pampulitikang paninindigan ni Bongbong Marcos para mapanagot ang China sa malakihang pinsalang dinulot ng agresyon at pandarambong nito sa ating karagatan,” he said in a statement.
(All Marcos needs is strong political will to hold China accountable for the massive damage its aggression and incursion have brought to our waters.)
Hicap called on Marcos to confront Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop the intimidation brought about by their militia and massive fishing vessels to Filipino fisherfolk, noting that this would yield more gains for the country than any form of foreign investment or loan.
“Hindi dapat isantabi ni Marcos Jr. ang mahalagang usaping ito para lamang makakuha ng dayuhang puhunan at pautang mula sa China. Naniniwala kaming mas malaki ang magiging pakinabang ng Pilipinas kung mapagbabayad ang China sa pinsalang ginawa nito sa ating karagatan kumpara sa ipagkakaloob nitong dayuhang pautang at puhunan sa bansa,” he added.
(Marcos should not set aside this very important issue for the sake of securing investments and loans from China. We believe that the Philippines will benefit more if China is held accountable for the harm it has caused to our waters than in any investment or loan it grants to the country.)
In 2019, marine scientists from the University of the Philippines made a “conservative estimate” that the country is losing some P33.1 billion every year from damaged reef ecosystems at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the Spratly Islands, primarily due to the Asian economic giant’s reclamation activities and illegal fishing operations.
Foreign Assistant Secretary Nathaniel Imperial said during a press briefing at the Malacañang that the Department of Foreign Affairs intends to formalize a “direct communication” with its Chinese counterpart during Marcos’ state visit to prevent future “miscalculation and miscommunication in the West Philippine Sea.”