THE militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) hailed President-elect Rodrigo Duterte for his efforts to help Filipino fishermen, particularly those fishing in Scarborough Shoal.
Duterte earlier appealed to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to allow Filipino fishermen to continue fishing in contested areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Pamalakaya said this is a welcome development for the fishermen who had long been deprived of their traditional fishing grounds because of the maritime dispute with China. In several instances, Filipino fishermen have been harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard when they venture in areas claimed by Beijing.
“We laud the effort of President Duterte to make our fishers return to their traditional fishing areas. This is a good start towards the end of this long territorial dispute that is making the lives of our fishers difficult and miserable,” Salvador France, the group’s vice chairperson, said in a statement.
The group urged the mayor to pursue bilateral talks with China.
“We should present all the facts and details that will show China that the West Philippine Sea is no longer in a contention because it is legally, historically and politically belongs to us,” France said.
“We are always willing to cooperate with Duterte regarding this matter for the sake of our Filipino fishermen and in the name of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” France added.
The group lamented that President Benigno Aquino 3rd failed to protect Filipino fishermen.
“Outgoing President Aquino had failed to protect the dispute-affected Filipino fishers while he was in Malacañang. He turned a blind eye to the harassment and intimidation done to our fishers by the Chinese Coast Guard which eventually displaced our fishermen from their livelihood,” France said.