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Bad example

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

It appears that the submissive response chosen by our government as a reaction to China’s aggressiveness of China towards Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea has begun to take its toll.

Some Filipino fishermen have started to accept the cruelties being demonstrated by the China Coast Guard while out on patrol on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in Zambales. They would approach their boats and ask for fish while others would even be audacious enough to take some of the finest among their catch without any permission.

The Chinese believe the disputed territory belongs to them and are exercising full control in the area on some foreign fishermen. But for a number of Filipinos, this is hard to accept especially since they are aware that the shoal, including all its fish, minerals and natural resources belongs to us since it is located within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

Several Filipinos say the absence of any member of the Philippine Coast Guard out on patrol on the shoal clearly shows that the territory is under the control of the Chinese Coast Guard.

Since President Duterte is in good terms with President Xi Jinping, the Chinese harassment on our fishermen has stopped. The Chinese Coast Guard and Navy have allowed the Filipinos to fish in the area using small boats.

Other Filipino fishermen have learned to accept the cigarettes, noodles or two bottles of mineral water that some coast guard would shamelessly give in exchange for 15 kilos of fish that they took. After all, life will be harder if they are not allowed to fish.

But apart from the China Coast Guard, some Vietnamese fishermen have begun to enter the scene. Perhaps, seeing the passive attitude of our officials towards the Chinese may have emboldened some fishermen from that country to inch closer to the shorelines of Zambales.

Let me remind our fishermen of the decision of the international arbitration court that allows Filipinos, Chinese as well as our neighboring fishermen to catch fish on Scarborough Shoal.

What the government should do is to fully implement this decision, exercise control over the area, and disallow China from treating it as part of its territory. If the situation worsens and other foreign fishermen begin to pillage our waters and natural resources, how will then our government officials react?

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