Advocates for the preservation of territorial sovereignty and development of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) had a symbolic installation ceremony of the Philippine flag in Masinloc, Zambales on Dec. 9, 2017. The activity was the culmination of the outreach and medical mission program of the National Youth Movement for West Philippine Sea (NYMWPS).
Global Chair and founder Dr. Celia Lamkin said that the symbolic installation should send a message that the area which China continues to claim as theirs despite The Hague Tribunal ruling definitely belongs to the Philippines and that it should be respected. “We would like to remind the Filipinos that the West Philippine Sea is ours, and we should not give up that right,” Lamkin said.
Lamkin added that Filipinos should work together to call on our government to uphold such right for the benefit of the fishermen whose livelihood depends on the bounties of the seas. “Our fishermen have been continuously deprived of access to a territory that was ruled to be ours,” she said.
NYMWPS has been advised by the fishermen that they are still being bullied by Chinese fishermen backed up by the Chinese Coast Guard whenever they sail out to the area. “We are no match to their fishing vessels so they always get the bigger catch, yet we are still deprived with the small share that we are hoping to get from the area,” says one fisherman who opted to be anonymous.
NYMWPS points out the still lackadaisical stance of the government in dealing with the WPS issue. However, it welcomes the recent House panel approval of a measure seeking to declare the Kalayaan Island group in Palawan as “alienable and disposable land.” The group has been advocating the development of the islands, and is happy to note that the House declaration will promote business opportunities and trade and industry in the area by attracting investors. The group hopes that should this bill be enacted, the implementing rules and regulations will have enough safeguards to ensure that ownership of land and investments in the Kalayaan Island Group will not be made available to those with conflict of interests.
It was emphasized during the House panel’s hearing that development plans for the island group shall focus on enhancement of island habitability; construction of a mooring space for Philippine Navy vessels and other vessels; upgrading the island’s defense structures; improvement of roads and air strip; and, provision of water, power, and communication facilities.
“We welcome this development. This measure supports our advocacy. As a matter of fact, NYMWPS had submitted proposal to the office of the President during the time of President Benigno Aquino III which was positively welcomed. However, due to the transition, it was endorsed to the Duterte administration.
We have not received any response about the proposal from the Duterte administration,” Lamkin shared.
Nevertheless, Lamkin and her group are hoping that this development is the start of better things for the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea. “Ultimately, the victory of our West Philippine Sea is the victory of every Filipino,” says Lamkin. (PR)