De Lima wants Senate probe on harassment of fishers at Panatag Shoal
The administration may have passed off the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen by members of the Chinese coast guard as “barter,” but Sen. Leila de Lima wants a Senate inquiry on the situation of the fisherfolk at Panatag Shoal.
In her Senate Resolution No. 766, De Lima said that while diplomacy is an important component of foreign policy, the government should “unquestionably” give primacy to the welfare of Filipino fishermen and should assert their rights at any circumstance.
“The administration should champion the economic situation of our fisherfolk by standing up for their losses, enforcing mechanisms that boost their profit, and promote sustainable fishing in the disputed area,” De Lima said in her resolution.
The government, she added, should protect the fishermen from any untoward action and should take steps in preserving the fishing industry since it is one of the major industries in the country.
De Lima also cited several reports on the habitual taking of the best catch of the Filipino fishermen by members of the Chinese coast guard who venture into Panatag Shoal, a rich fishing ground off Zambales. In exchange, the fishermen were reportedly given noodles, cigarettes, and water.
President Duterte had described the incident as barter.
Some of the fishermen had said though that they had little choice. Critics said it was a case of harassment and noted that the trade was uneven since the Chinese took the best catch in exchange for a few items.
The incident took place amid warming ties between the Duterte administration and China.
President Duterte has cultivated a friendship with Beijing and has expressed his love and gratitude to Chinese President Xi Jinping for promising him multi-billion dollars’ worth of aid.
The President has also put on the back burner the maritime dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea, including the decision of the arbitral tribunal that invalidated China’s sweeping claim over the resource-rich and strategic waterway. /ee
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