Duterte’s long-overdue assertion does not fulfill his empty promises on West Philippine Sea — fishers group
Manila, Philippines — “Sham rhetoric, long overdue, and nothing but to save himself from international isolation,” this was how the militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) described Duterte’s invoking of Philippines’ international legal victory in a maritime dispute with China during the United Nations General Assembly.
“Too late the hero; China has already exhausted the marine resources, and destroyed the marine environment in the West Philippine Sea through reclamation, military construction, and large-scale poaching and industrial fishing. The fishing rights of Filipino fishers have been restricted as it is. The assertion of our sovereignty rights to China should have been done before,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA said that China is already “in control” of the West Philippine Sea “courtesy of the Duterte government’s submissive foreign policies and non-assertion of legal and historical rights to China”.
Eight rock formations and reefs within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf have been already occupied and transformed by China into artificial islands intended for military installations; these include the Recto Bank, Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, Mischief Reef, Mabini Reef, Subi Reef, Keenan Reef, and the Kagitingan Reef. Kagitingan Reef, Zamora Reef, and Panganiban Reef have already cruise and surface-to-air missile systems.
Two research stations under the Integrated Research Center for Islands and Reefs of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have begun operations on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), and Zamora Reef (Subi Reef), the fishers’ group added.
On April 18, a Chinese state media China Global Television Network (CGTN) announced the establishment of its newest administrative districts in the contested South China Sea; the Xisha district and the Nansha district.
Xisha district will cover the Panatag Shoal, a resource-rich fishing grounds located 128-nautical mile off the province of Zambales. The Nansha district, on the otherhand, will cover major parts of the Kalayaan Group of Islands, namely, the 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.
“He should have at least condemned the Chinese aggression as it ransacked the country’s marine resources in the Kalayaan Island Group, as stated by the Presidential Decree 1596 and Republic Act No. 9522 declaring it as an Archipelagic Baseline of the Philippines,” Hicap added.
“Duterte is now posing to uphold our sovereign rights in the midst of him becoming an international outcast because of his regime’s human rights abuses in the country. It is nothing but a lip service, meant to save his image from the global community. What good is a verbal pronouncement when it wouldn’t transform into concrete actions that would effectively end Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea?” ended Hicap. ###