Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed panelists, and fellow citizens, today we find ourselves entangled in a tumultuous sea of international tensions, as we discuss China’s recent installation of a floating barrier in the southern portion of Scarborough Shoal, an area also known as Bajo de Masinloc. This barrier, an ominous presence in Philippine waters, has ignited a passionate debate about sovereignty, livelihoods, and international law.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, in no uncertain terms, condemned China’s actions as “cruel” and “brazen,” highlighting the plight of our fellow Filipinos who rely on these waters for sustenance and their livelihoods. She called for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to escort our fisherfolk through these barriers and declared that the national government must not allow such actions to go unpunished.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri followed suit, emphasizing China’s encroachment on our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). He underscored the danger these structures pose to Filipino fishing boats, causing damage to propellers and engines. Zubiri’s call for the immediate removal of these barriers echoes the urgency of the situation.
Senator Francis Tolentino resolutely stood by international law, stating that China’s actions constitute a violation. This sentiment aligns with global norms and principles that have long guided our interactions on the high seas.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva passionately argued that China’s actions display a blatant disregard for Philippine sovereignty. Indeed, sovereignty is a fundamental pillar of our nation’s identity, and it must be respected by all nations.
The discovery of these barriers during a maritime patrol on September 22 further complicates this situation. The Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) discovered the 300-meter-long barrier, while also witnessing the aggression of a China Coast Guard vessel towards Filipino fishermen. This scenario underscores the significance of this debate – it’s not just about structures in the sea; it’s about the safety, livelihoods, and dignity of our fellow Filipinos.
The Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR have strongly condemned China’s installation of these barriers, emphasizing the navigational hazards they pose to Filipino fishermen. It is imperative that we consider not only the economic implications but also the human cost of these barriers.
As we delve into this contentious issue, we must reflect on the values that define us as a nation. Are we willing to stand up for our sovereignty, the rights of our fishermen, and the principles of international law? Can we ignore the plight of our fellow Filipinos who rely on these waters for their very survival?
This debate is not merely about political posturing or international power plays. It’s about the heart and soul of our nation, the resilience of our fishermen, and the principles that guide us on the world stage. As we navigate these troubled waters, let us remember the importance of unity, diplomacy, and justice. The choices we make today will shape the future of our nation and its people.