Hontiveros to DND’s Lorenzana: Protect Filipino fisherfolk, don’t downplay Chinese threat
MANILA – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Department of National Defense (DND) to take China’s Coast Guard Law seriously, after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that China’s new law does not concern our fisherfolk because they are not armed.
“Paulit-ulit na lang bang ibabalewala ang mga banta ng Tsina? Sarili nating mga mangingisda ang mismong nagiging biktima ng pananalasa ng China, pero bakit hindi pa rin sila pinaniniwalaan ng gobyerno? Sila na nga ang nawalan ng hanapbuhay dahil sa paghahari-harian ng China, tapos, hindi pa pumapanig sa kanila ang mga taong dapat sana’y unang unang tagapagtanggol ng ating kapwa Pilipino?,” Hontiveros said.
The senator had recently expressed alarm over China’s new law, which allows its Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels that enter Beijing-claimed territories. Earlier, Lorenzana had said that “foreign vessels, I understand, will be armed vessels by other countries.” However, Collin Koh — a researcher who focuses on maritime security in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea — said that the law does not state if “foreign vessels” are armed or not.
“We should focus on enforcing our laws in our own waters, because China will interpret and implement its law the way it pleases. We should step up our game by protecting the livelihood and economic interests of our compatriots in the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.
While she welcomes Lorenzana’s promise that the government will have Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy patrols ensure our fisherfolk’s protection in the disputed waters, Hontiveros stressed that the DND should stop dismissing the concerns raised by fisherfolks themselves.
“The DND better start listening to our fisherfolk. Nakakalungkot na may mga balita pang baka nagsisinungaling daw ang mga mangingisdang nagrereklamo sa panghaharass ng Tsina. Sila na nga ang mawawalan ng kabuhayan, sila pa ang sinungaling?” the senator said.
“Dapat tayo ang unang tagapagtanggol ng mga mangingisda natin, because China will not protect them. We don’t have the luxury of downplaying any external threat, especially one coming from a country that has, time and again, pillaged our seas and our people,” Hontiveros concluded. ###