Fishers fear Cha-cha may scrap safeguards vs foreign encroachment in PH waters
MANILA, Philippines — A militant fishers’ group on Monday expressed concern over the controversial bid to amend the 1987 Constitution which, they said, may scrap the safeguards that help prevent the “foreign plunder of our seas and natural resources” under Philippine laws.
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a statement that pushing through with Charter change, also known as Cha-cha, may open a window for foreign fishing fleets, especially from China, to further encroach in Philippine waters.
“Ikinababahala ng mga mangingisda ang pag-igting pa ng dayuhang pandarambong sa ating karagatan at likas-yaman kung tatanggalin ang proteksyon sa mga ito na ipinagkakaloob ng umiiral na Konstitusyon,” Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
(Fisherfolk are worried that foreign plunder of our seas and natural resources may intensify if the protections provided by the existing Constitution are scrapped.)
Hicap, who is among the resource persons to attend the House committee on constitutional amendments hearing on Monday, said the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. should be reminded that the presence of massive Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea has already been a problem even without Charter change.
EXPLAINER: The process of Cha-cha and why we should monitor it
“Paano na lamang kung tuluyan nang aalisin ang proteksyon na inilalaan ng saligang-batas sa ating soberanya? Tiyak na magiging pangkaraniwan na lamang sa mga Pilipinong mangingisda ang makasalubong ang mga dayuhang barko na nagsasagawa ng malakihang-tipo ng pangingisda at iba pang porma ng pandarambong sa ating yamang dagat,” he added.
(What more if the only constitutional safeguard for our sovereignty is completely removed? This would definitely normalize the encounters that ensue between Filipino fishers and foreign vessels embarking on large-scale fishing expeditions, as well as other forms of plunder in our territorial waters.)
Hicap then urged the public to oppose measures pushing for Cha-cha as he warned that this may likewise pave the way for increased foreign ownership claims in the country’s key industries.
To recall, China has made sweeping claims in nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea – waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines’ maritime dispute with China has long strained their relations, especially after a 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating the latter’s assertions.
Marcos earlier said that China has committed to “find a compromise and find a solution” to the plight of Filipinos seeking to fish again in their natural fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.
But Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution calls for a firmer approach to resolve such maritime conflict as it says that “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
Pamalakaya presses Marcos Jr. to drop joint oil, gas exploration plans with China
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