A CIVIL society organization monitoring foreign incursions and advancing peace and development in the West Philippine Sea on Sunday, March 12, raised fears of escalating Chinese intrusions within Philippine waters.
In a follow through on their demands to the Philippines government in a press conference last March 8, Dr. Celia Lamkin, Founder and Global Chairperson of the National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea (NYMWPS), said that based on their daily monitoring, “the Chinese do not actually leave the area, they are present there 24-7.”
Lamkin observed that “on occasion, or every time US officials visit the Philippines and multi-country military exercises are planned in the region such as those including Japan and Australia, the Chinese increase the number of vessels patrolling the area, sowing fear among the civilian population of Pagasa, especially children.”
On Friday, March 10, the Philippine Coast Guard reported that while they spotted fewer Chinese vessels in some features in the West Philippine Sea during its Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) flight on Thursday, March 9, they identified a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship and a China Coast Guard vessel within Pagasa Island’s territorial sea along with 15 China Maritime Militia vessels.
PCG statement reads “The PLA Navy’s Jiangdao Class warship and CCG vessel 5203 continue to loiter within Pag-asa’s 12-nautical mile territorial sea.”
Previously, on March 4, PCG spotted 42 suspected CMM, PLA Navy and CCG vessels loitering 4.5 to 8 nautical miles from Pagasa Island, “clearly inside the land feature’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea.”
Pag-asa Island is the largest in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and serves as the seat of the local government of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan.
Pag-asa is home to an estimated 400 people including 70 children.
Lamkin urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to beef up the defense of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by expediting the Coast Guard and Navy modernization programs and deploying dedicated Coast Guard assets for the protection and security of fishermen and residents in the area.
While Lamkin commended President Marcos Jr. declaration of “staying true to his commitment and not ceding an inch of territory,” she said that mere statements such as this are not enough and reiterated the call of Scarborough Shoal fishermen to “give them bigger and more durable boats to counter the Chinese presence there. Let the Coast Guard protect our fisherfolk while they pursue their livelihood to feed their families and provide fish for the country.”
In the mid-week press conference held at Max’s Restaurant along Maria Orosa, Ermita, Manila, Pag-asa elementary school teacher Realyn Limbo, expressed sadness for the trauma that children are experiencing due to these Chinese incursions.
“As a teacher, it breaks my heart to see my students exposed to the Chinese harassment at such a young age.” Ms. Limbo said.
“Although we on the island are scared, we have to be brave so that the West Philippine Sea does not fall to the hands of any foreign oppressor.”
In the same press conference, Leonardo Cuaresma, a leader of Scarborough Shoal fishermen and President of the New Masinloc Fishermen’s Association in Masinloc, Zambales, denounced the lack of government assistance in their community whose main source of livelihood is fishing.
He decried that their “livelihood is affected and yet there are still no clear mechanisms for our voices to be heard. I plead to the government to give us a strong and credible avenue for us to reveal these injustices to our Filipino fisherfolk.”
During the press conference, former Department of Energy Undersecretary Eduardo Mañalac gave a presentation on the Malampaya Gas Field calling out the illegal entry of Dennis Uy and Enrique Razon’s companies as Service Contractors of the giant Malampaya Gas Field.
Mañalac stressed that “God gives in abundance, but unfortunately it is dammed from reaching the poor and needy by corrupt politicians and greedy oligarchs.
He said, “ The Malampaya Gas Field is vastly rich and its profits should be used for the benefit of the Filipino people. The Govt thru PNOC should take over so the government can get the ₱ 100,000,000 a day profit that Udenna and Razon are getting now.!! Money to help our fishermen, PUV drivers, health workers and most importantly to modernize our Navy to protect our territory from transgressors like China.
Lamkin asked the President “… intervene in Malampaya so that Filipinos will benefit from it – not the corrupt! If you need money for the Philippines, Malampaya is the answer to your problems!”
Kalayaan Municipal Councilor Maurice Albayda emphasized the impact of China’s illegal presence on the West Philippine Sea in the country and the world.