Civil group worried over increased Chinese incursions in the Philippines
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
A civil society organization monitoring foreign incursions and advancing peace and development in the West Philippine Sea on Sunday 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 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 U.S. 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 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 flight on 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.
“The PLA Navy’s Jiangdao Class warship and CCG vessel 5203 continue to loiter within Pagasa’s 12-nautical mile territorial sea," reads a statement from the Philippine Coast Guard.
On March 4, PCG spotted 42 suspected Chinese vessels loitering 4.5 to 8 nautical miles from Pagasa Island, "clearly inside the land feature's 12 nautical mile territorial sea.”
Pagasa Island is the largest in the Kalayaan Island Group and serves as the seat of the local government of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan.
Pagasa is home to an estimated 400 people including 70 children.
Lamkin urges President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to beef up the defense of the country's exclusive economic zone 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 Marcos' declaration of "staying true to his commitment and not ceding an inch of territory," she said 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 in Manila, Pagasa 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 Chinese harassment at such a young age," Limbo said. “Although we in 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 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 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.
“The Malampaya gas field is vastly rich and its profits should be used for the benefit of the Filipino people. The government, through 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," he said.
Lamkin asked Marcos to “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," she added.
Kalayaan Municipal Councilor Maurice Albayda emphasized the impact of China’s illegal presence on the West Philippine Sea in the country and the world.
“It is not just an issue of livelihood. It is an issue of national security, economy, environment and more that affect the lives of countless Filipinos. All of us who love our country must fight for the West Philippine Sea. This is for Filipinos and we will never back down," Albayda said.
Alphonse Vita, NYMWPS youth officer, noted that so much politics have muddled the issue and pressed for united action. “That unity be unity in purpose - and that purpose is expelling the invaders off our territory," he said.
The National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea is a peaceful, non-partisan, and transglobal group that advocates for the preservation of the Philippines’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Capt. Caruso Mario Antonio Tagal, a former military and commercial pilot, is calling the Filipino youth and the rest of the Filipino people and even non-Filipinos to join our cause.