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TURNING POINT: The No Secret Gentleman Agreement

Column Titles 2023 20230815 170141 0000

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 7 May)—The Duterte legacy of surrendering the West Philippine Sea (WPS), our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), to China continues to hurt us to this day. The Chinese have become more aggressive and violent not only in enjoying the privilege granted them by the former president but in claiming sovereignty over our territorial waters, expanding their bully claim from 9 to 10 dash line.

We remember that no matter what Palace officials and cabinet members had said to the contrary, Duterte had not backtracked from what he admitted back in 2016 on having a verbal agreement with President Xi Jinping of China regarding fishing in the West Philippine Sea. In fact, he affirmed it in his comment on the swarming of Chinese maritime militia in Philippine waters. The former president declared that the Chinese could go on fishing as they wish and he would not stop them.

But, he said it would be a different story if they extract oil and other mineral resources. He would, accordingly send his grey ships into the area.

Everybody knows then that Duterte flip-flopped on many issues but he was steadfast on the Chinese exploitation of the fishery resources in WPS. In his watch, he steadfastly honored his agreement with Xi. Digong agreed with Chinese authorities who claimed that the swarm of vessels are fishing boats not maritime militia, that’s why he said they could continue fishing as they wish; he wouldn’t stop them.

Duterte belittled the value of our fishery resources and its significance on our food security. He is not aware how much we are losing from the continued Chinese illegal fishing in Philippine waters.

The illegal massive and destructive harvest of our marine resources has intensified to this day. It ought to stop. The national Task Force on WPS revealed that some 240,000 kilograms (kg) of fish is being seized each day by the Chinese fishing vessels stationed in the area. The Chinese maritime militia aka fishing vessels ought to get out from the country’s EEZ; otherwise, the country will be losing 7.2 million kg or 3,600 metric tons for each month that the said fishing vessels are allowed to stay in the area, says the food security group Tugon Kabuhayan.

Meanwhile, the Agri-Fishery Alliance, a coalition of various agricultural groups and stakeholders in the country, also estimated that the Philippines loses 3 million metric tons of fish annually worth P300 billion due to Chinese illegal fishing in the WPS. The group says our food security is threatened by the illegal fishing that severely depletes our fish supply. The irony of the situation is that we import the fish, particularly galunggong, they illegally harvested from our waters.

To continuously adopt the hopeless prostituting stance of the former president is a mockery to our national sovereignty. The Chinese bullying should be countered with a show of force, that we are not alone. The multilateral maritime exercises in WPS with our allies, Australia, France, US, Korea and Japan is an appropriate move in the right direction. The move may yet be strengthened with an organized maritime patrol of Asian neighbor states affected by China’s aggression in South China Sea.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)

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