Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan warned of a serious fish supply shortage if Chinese presence remains in the West Philippine Sea that, he said, is the country’s traditional fishing ground.
“The Philippines cannot afford a possible fish shortage if Chinese presence remains in the traditional Filipino fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea (WPS),” Pangilinan said over the weekend.
If this is allowed to happen, he said it will worsen current food supply problems facing the Duterte administration.
“May problema na tayo sa pork shortage. ’Wag naman pati fish shortage dahil sigurado, ’pag nangyari ito, magmamahal din pati isda [We already have a pork shortage problem. Let’s not allow a fish shortage because for sure it will raise fish prices],” the Senator said.
Pangilinan added: “Mahirap magmahal ang pagkain, ’di lang heart-broken aabutin natin, kundi pati sakit ng sikmura.”
He recalled that over the weekend, fishermen from Zambales on Saturday blamed their dwindling catch to the presence of at least 20 Chinese vessels anchored around 111 kilometers from San Antonio, Zambales.
The Senator noted that the affected fishermen usually earn up to P4,000 per fishing trip but they are now coming back almost empty-handed due to the scarcity of their catch.
As one of the proponents for the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources that aims to better manage the Philippines’s vast marine territory, Pangilinan prodded the Duterte administration to “take immediate action against the twin threats of territory encroachment and fish shortage.”
He reminded that “as early as now, we should heed the warning of our fishermen on the issue of their dwindling catch,” even as he added: “We are glad that the DFA takes this into account in their diplomatic protests.”
At the same time, the Senator suggested that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources should also step up and provide necessary support to Filipino fishermen.“The Department of Agriculture as a whole must prepare for contingency to avoid a fish shortage.”
The Filipino fihermen lamented that “in this situation, China is not only violating our sovereignty, it is also robbing us of income and food. Small-scale farmers and fishermen are always on the losing end. They are the poorest and almost always taken advantage of,” Pangilinan added.
At the same time, he recalled economist Solita Monsod estimating that China is potentially profiting $6 billion a year from fishing in Philippine territorial waters.