West Philippine Sea still abundant in fisheries, fishers’ group rebuts

Manila, Philippines – In observance of the Earth Day, the militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) refuted President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that there is not enough fish to quarrel about in the West Philippine Sea. The group cited the data from the scientist group AGHAM that the entire West Philippine Sea, which covers the Kalayaan Group of Islands in Spratlys and the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), could contribute 2-5% of the domestic total marine capture fisheries output.

“There are many fish in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine government just doesn’t want to take care of those. It is estimated that the potential annual yield for Panatag Shoal alone is about 5, 000 metric tons. While the fisheries output in the Kalayaan Group of Islands is about 3-5% annually,” Jerwin Baure, PAMALAKAYA resident fisheries expert and a member of AGHAM said in a statement.

“The high productivity in the West Philippine Sea directly supports the livelihood of more than 600, 000 Filipino fisherfolk. That is how many people the Duterte government has abandoned courtesy of its defeatist action and failure to uphold our rights in our territorial waters,” Baure added.

PAMALAKAYA added that Duterte’s approval of Chinese plunder of fishery resources in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and national territory is on top of the more serious destruction of the marine environment brought about by the “imperialist power’s” reclamation activities. AGHAM estimated that the total 62-square mile reclamation sites of China that destroyed coral reefs caused the country to lose P1.9 trillion annually.

For his part, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon Fernando Hicap cited a provision in the constitution to remind President Duterte that he is “mandated” to protect marine and fishery resources.

“Mr. Duterte’s recent pronouncement runs contrary to the provision of the constitution on the national patrimony. Oil, mineral, and fishery resources amount to equal value that should be protected and utilized exclusively for the Filipinos,” Hicap said.

Hicap stated that the “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens”.

“The irony on this year’s Earth Day is that the Philippine President is obviously on the camp of those who want to destroy the planet. Moreover, dereliction of the state’s duty to protect and utilize what is rightfully ours is tantamount to treason of the constitution and the Filipinos,” ended Hicap. ###

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