One month after, Duterte is still silent on missing “Liberty Cinco 14” — group

One month after, Duterte is still silent on missing “Liberty Cinco 14” — group

Manila, Philippines — In time of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) and exactly a month since 14 Filipino fishing crew went missing after a collision incident, fishers under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) who participated in the protest dubbed as #SONAgKAISA, denounced his “downright treason” as corroborated by his failure to uphold national sovereignty and territory and protect Filipino fisherfolk against Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

PAMALAKAYA lambasted the Duterte administration’s “blatant attempt to normalize” maritime hit-and-run incidents that victimize Filipino fishers.

“President Duterte has never expressed even a mild concern about the fate of the 14 missing fishing crew, the latest victims of hit-and-run by a foreign vessel in our fishing waters,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.

PAMALAKAYA recalled the Duterte government’s exoneration of the operator of the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 that rammed F/B Gem-Ver 1 in June last year, and put the lives of 22 Filipino fishermen in serious danger. The vessel was reported as part of the China’s naval militia based from Bohe Port, Maoming City, Guangdong Province.

“Duterte’s rule of impunity that favors China gives other foreign vessels a license to violate the rights of Filipino fishermen in our territorial waters. More than a year after F/B Gem-Ver’s fate, on the midnight of June 27, the F/V Liberty Cinco was rammed by a Chinese crew on a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, and the 14 Filipino crew were not rescued and remained missing exactly a month now,” Hicap, former Anakpawis Party-list solon added.

Hicap added that the more serious failure of President Duterte is his “surrender” of the country’s territory to China, particularly the Kalayaan Group of Islands and the Panatag Shoal (internationally Scarborough Shoal). The Kalayaan Group of Islands was established by the Presidential Decree 1596 and is protected by the Republic Act 9522 or the Archipelagic Baseline of the Philippines.

The fisherfolk group explains that Kalayaan is a municipality of Palawan province, but its territory was chopped up by Chinese aggression. Zamora Reef [international name Subi Reef], the group furthered, is only 12.4 nautical mile [23 kilometer] away from Kalayaan’s center Pag-asa Island, almost within the territorial waters and within the contiguous zone, was reclaimed by China and now declared it as Zhuibi Jiao, under Nansha district of Sansha City of Hainan province.

“Other countries might consider this kind of aggression as an open declaration of war, but Mr. Duterte is stuck with his surrender policy to China,” Hicap slammed.

Last April 18, China established its newest district Xisha and Nansha under Sansha City, Hainan province. Xisha encroached the Panatag Shoal which is within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and Nansha covered: Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) as Yongshu Residential Community, Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) as Meiji Jiao, Zamora Reef (Subi Reef) as Zhuibi Jiao, Calderon Reef (Cuarteron Reef) as Huayang Jiao, and Johnson South Reef as Chigua Jiao. These features are all covered by the baselines set by Presidential Decree 1596.

Moreover, China declared a fishing ban from May 1 to August 16, that covered parts of the West Philippine Sea, off the coast of Busuanga Island of Palawan province, to the north. The Duterte government expressed non-opposition to the declaration.

“In the worsening state; this is how we describe the condition of the Filipino fisherfolk, which are already the country’s poorest of the poor, under the Duterte administration. President Duterte’s foreign policies with China have intensified the harassment, bullying, and intimidation of Filipino fishers in the West Philippine Sea,” Hicap said.

“We’ve had enough of Duterte’s mass deception and surrender policy. He is a traitor and does not possess a square inch of moral and political ascendancy to address the state of the nation as he himself advances the interest of China, coinciding his fascist and authoritarian rule, characterized with crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses,” ended Hicap. ###

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