Zambales fishers wary of possible VFA between PH, Japan | Inquirer News

Zambales fishers wary of possible VFA between PH, Japan

Residents in the coastal village in San Antonio town, Zambales province watch the sunset in the West Philippine Sea

Residents in the coastal village in San Antonio town, Zambales province watch the sunset in the West Philippine Sea, where the US and the Philippines plan to restart their joint military patrols under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. (Photo by Joanna Rose Aglibot)

SAN ANTONIO, Zambales — Like the joint maritime patrols of the Philippines and the United States in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the country’s possible Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Japan received mixed reactions from fishermen in this province.

After concluding his five-day trip to Japan, President Ferdinand Marcos said the country could get into VFA with Japan, saying that it might help to protect maritime territory, including fisherfolk.


Bobby Roldan, a fisherman in Masinloc and Luzon vice chair of the fisher group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said a military pact with another foreign power like Japan would not decrease the tension in the WPS.


Roldan believed such agreements would not protect Filipino fishermen but would only trigger harassment in their traditional fishing grounds.

In a statement, Pamalakaya maintained strong opposition against any foreign military intervention in the country, “whether it be China, US, Japan, or any superpowers.”

“We should stand on our own feet against China using international laws, such as our historic victory in the arbitral tribunal,” the group said.

It added: “We don’t need any protection from any foreign nations that have their own economic and geopolitical interests. We certainly don’t need another superpower displaying military might in our territory.”

But for Leonardo Cuaresma, a fisherman and president of the New Masinloc Fisherman Association, the agreement should be checked first, “and if they [Japan] want to help, let’s see if it’s beneficial for our country.”

“Every time we experienced harassment and bullying from other countries, the government justified that we could not fight, maybe it is right to have another ally in defending our sovereignty,” said Cuaresma.


Fishermen in this province are among those who are directly affected by Chinese aggression in the WPS.

The Scarborough Shoal (Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc to the locals) serves as their traditional fishing ground in the WPS. It is a triangle-shaped chain of reefs and islands around a 150-kilometer-wide lagoon.

In the past few years, abundant marine resources in the shoal and its surrounding waters have drawn fishermen from both China and the Philippines, which both claim as part of their territory.

But according to some local fishermen, Chinese sea patrols and fishermen have already ruined the marine resources around the shoal.


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TAGS: Japan, Philippines, VFA

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