Build more fishing shelters, ports in WPS to send ‘loud message’
House bill suggests 9 locations to counteract Chinese presence

Build more fishing shelters, ports in WPS to send ‘loud message’

/ 05:48 AM April 03, 2024

Build more fishing shelters, ports in WPS to send ‘loud message’

Agri Rep. Wilbert Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

MANILA, Philippines — Agri Rep. Wilbert Lee has called for the passage of a bill seeking the construction of fishing shelters and ports in nine maritime features occupied by Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and Philippine Rise, saying it would help assert the country’s sovereignty in the face of Chinese trespassing and acts of aggression in these areas.

In a statement on Tuesday, Lee said passing House Bill No. 9011, or the Fishing Shelters and Ports Act, would “send a loud message that the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise are ours.”


The bill was filed by Lee last year and remains pending in the House Committee on the West Philippine Sea.


READ: Filipinos fishing on frontline of China’s battle for disputed sea

It calls for the building of fishing shelters and ports on the islands of Lawak, Kota, Likas, Pag-asa, Parola, Panata, Patag, Rizal Reef and Ayungin Shoal. These projects are assigned mainly to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in coordination with the Department of National Defense and other relevant government agencies.

Not courting war

The facilities will offer a safe refuge for fishermen who may face threats and other unforeseen circumstances, including incidents involving foreign vessels, as well as a place where they can rest, store supplies or repair their gear, or use communication devices.

READ: Harassment of PH fishers continues – PCG

The bill was filed mainly in response to mounting reports of Filipino fishermen being displaced or restricted by Chinese vessels in these areas, that are supposedly among the former’s traditional fishing grounds.

“Under this measure, we are not pursuing a war,” Lee said in his introductory note to the bill. “We are protecting and fighting for the livelihood of our countrymen, particularly our fishermen. Our waters are vulnerable but, more crucially, so are the lives of our fishermen, who suffer the most.”


Escudero WPS shelter proposal

In 2023, Sen. Francis Escudero made a similar proposal and pushed for a budget of at least P100 million for the construction of a shelter or lodging facility at Ayungin Shoal.

Escudero then explained that it would not serve as a military base but a mere shelter for both soldiers and fishermen, “so we can finally replace the BRP Sierra Madre and have suitable accommodation, again, not only for our soldiers but for fishermen of any nationality.”

The BRP Sierra Madre is the World War II vessel deliberately grounded at the shoal in the 1990s to serve as a military outpost.

Lee said having more Philippine structures in WPS and Philippine Rise would also complement President Marcos’ recently issued Executive Order No. 57, which creates the National Maritime Council to better “confront” challenges to the country’s sovereignty in these waters.

The EO was announced by Malacañang two days after China Coast Guard ships once again tried to stop a Philippine resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre by training water cannons on a civilian boat carrying cargo and manned by Navy crewmen.

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“We cannot just stand idly by while foreigners bully us right in our own backyard,” Lee said. “We need to protect the lives and livelihood of our fisherfolk, and support our soldiers who risk their lives to guard and care for our territory.”

TAGS: West Philippine Sea, Wilbert Lee

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