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Fisherfolk group calls for peaceful but principled resolution on West Philippine Sea issue

By Cielito M. Reganit, Philippine News Agency

MANILA, July 13 (PNA) — The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to tighten control and claim on the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) even as it insisted that asserting Philippine rightful claim in the disputed area should be in any peaceful way possible.

Salvador France, vice chairperson of Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, said that engaging in a violent war against China is the last thing the country wants.

Photo courtesy of FisherfolkCoalition.com

Photo courtesy of FisherfolkCoalition.com

“Our fishers have been devastated as it is, and our natural resources in distraught. Active diplomacy through bilateral and multilateral talks with China and other claimants of the disputed waters is the best chance we have, provided these are founded upon the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the recent Hague decision, and advanced in mutual respect,” he said.

On Tuesday, the International Permanent Court of Arbitration favored the Philippines against the claim and actions of the Peoples Republic of China with respect to the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

It ruled that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its claimed nine-dash line.

Through its 9-dash line assumption, China has aggressively claimed 90 percent of the South China Sea, through which about USD 5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes every year and is a home to abundant marine products endowed with untapped oil and gas reserves

The international tribunal also found China in violation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), specifically with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), by interfering with fishing and petroleum operation, constructing artificial islands, and to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.

“It is official, the West Philippine Sea is ours and ours alone. This is a victory not only for us fisherfolk but also for us as a nation. We have stood up against the bullying and garnered support in the process,” France said.

“The international tribunal’s decision is an initial victory for the Filipino people who have tirelessly fought for our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We call on the Filipino people to remain steadfast on patriotism and nationalism in the name of defending the country from any aspect of foreign domination,” he said.

However, the fisherfolk group said that the Philippines should also remain vigilant for possible aggressive responses from China as Beijing has repeatedly said that it won’t comply with the International Tribunal Court as it maintains its claim that South China Sea is an indisputable sovereignty.

“We are now on the next stage of this battle. Until our fishers and our flag dominate the West Philippine Sea, this is far from over,” France said.