De Lima: Advice for fishermen to avoid Panatag Shoal ‘an act of betrayal’
MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration continues to “betray” Filipinos when the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) dissuaded Filipino fishermen from returning to the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, opposition Sen. Leila de Lima said Tuesday.
De Lima lamented how “this government chose to betray the country and its victory again by maintaining its policy of kowtowing to China,” instead of putting the welfare of Filipino fishermen at the forefront and asserting the Philippines’ rightful claim over parts of the South China Sea.
“Mali na apihin ang kapwa natin Pilipino, pero higit na mas mali na kinukunsinti ng gobyernong ito ang pang-aapi sa kanila,” she said in a statement from Camp Crame where she has been detained on drug charges.
(It is wrong to oppress our fellow Filipino, but it worse when our government perpetuates the oppression against Filipinos.)
The lawmaker said local fishermen should be allowed to peacefully fish in Panatag Shoal because the Philippines, in 2016, secured its claim at the International Arbitral Tribunal of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) which gives the Philippines exclusive sovereign rights over parts of the South China Sea, including Panatag Shoal.
BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona earlier advised fishermen to temporarily “refrain” from going to the Panatag Shoal following reported incidents of harassment by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG).
“Refrain muna natin na pumunta doon (Refrain from going there), for the meantime, and concentrate on our municipal waters kasi ‘yun nga ang pinangingisdaan natin (because those are our fishing ground),” Gongona told Super Radyo dzBB Friday.
“Just be careful at may mga dapat tayong pang-ilagan (because there is something we need to avoid) for the meantime,” he added.
The advice came days after the camp of Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares released a six-minute video narrating how the CCG would habitually harass local fishermen by taking their catch and driving them away from the shoal, which has been a traditional fishing ground for them.
Prior to the release of the said video, a mobile phone video showing CCG personnel boarding a Filipino fishing vessel to take some of the catch already made headlines in June 2018.
De Lima, chair of the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development, also pressed anew for a congressional investigation into the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen, which she asked for in a Senate Resolution No. 766 she had filed last year. /muf