AFP vows to protect fishermen from China harassment

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
AFP vows to protect fishermen from China harassment
Local fisherfolk place the symbolic buoys with markings “WPS Atin ito!” on the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone before pushing to the Bajo de Masinloc during the second civilian resupply mission to the West Philippine Sea on May 15, 2024.
STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino fishermen need not worry about China’s fishing ban or its threat to arrest foreign “trespassers” in what it claims as its territorial waters, as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has assured them of protection from possible harassment by the Chinese.

“Our fishermen should know our Armed Forces of the Philippines is here. We will support you, we have your back,” AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said yesterday at a public briefing.

She assured the fishermen and the nation in general of continued patrols in the West Philippine Sea particularly in the waters around Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal “so they can fish freely in our territory.”

Padilla stressed the AFP is guided by the Constitution and its actions are based on local and international law.

She said the AFP is calling on all sectors of society and international partners “to support our efforts in maintaining the peace, stability and the rule of law in the region.”

“In this resolve, no foreign entity can stop us from utilizing our resources within our rightful maritime domain. We are dedicated to safeguarding our national interest and securing the West Philippine Sea for the Filipino people,” she added.

The AFP earlier said it has contingency measures in case China does impose its new regulation starting June 15 to detain “trespassers” for 60 days without trial.

The Philippine Navy has also vowed not to recognize Beijing’s unilateral four-month-long fishing ban in the South China Sea which covers parts of the WPS that China continues to insist are theirs despite the 2016 Arbitral Award rejecting such claims.

“The Philippine Navy does not recognize this provocative statement nor will we be deterred in performing our mandate of securing the welfare of Filipino wherever he/she is – on land or at sea,” Philippine Navy spokesman for the WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said.

On a post on X, Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela said China appears to believe in its own lies since its Communist Party “has not really developed common sense because of its structured system.”

“Do you still think that the majority of countries in the world believe that it is the Philippines that provokes China? Shouldn’t you be the one worried that the transparency strategy of the Philippines has exposed your lies, aggression, bullying, harassment, provocation, and blatant disregard for international law?”

Tarriela also posted photos showing China coast guard’s use of powerful water cannons on Philippine vessels, as well as a helicopter hovering dangerously low over a group of Filipinos doing maritime research on a land feature in the West Philippine Sea. Tarriela was reacting to an article in China’s People’s Daily accusing the Philippines of pretending to be a victim of Chinese harassment.

Meanwhile, Filipino fishermen on board 20 boats returned to Barangay Collat in Masinloc yesterday morning after completing their two-day “fishing expedition” in Zambales waters without getting harassed by the Chinese.

“It was moreover an assertion that our territorial waters should be exclusive for fishing and other economic activities, not for warmongering military projection of any foreign power,” said Joey Marabe, provincial coordinator of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), which organized the fishing trip.

Marabe also claimed the Balikatan exercises between US and Filipino troops in San Antonio and San Marcelino towns had adversely affected the livelihood of fisherfolk in several coastal towns. — Emmanuel Tupas, Ghio Ong

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