Given the constant stream of news and controversies surrounding the West Philippine Sea (WPS), it is no wonder that the topic continues to be contentious locally as it is internationally.
With so many minds speaking on the issue, who better to shed some light on the issue than the same lawmakers and advocates who are fighting for our rights in the area?
Along with comedian Macoy Dubs, We The Pvblic hosted the West Philippine Sale: a satirical live stream inspired by online live selling. Apart from asking viewers to say MINE to symbolically claim the disputed islands, we also invited several key speakers to answer and clarify some burning questions about the West Philippine Sea.
Senator Risa Hontiveros
One of the harshest critics of the administration’s ‘defeatist’ stance on WPS, Senator Risa noted the issue’s crucial effect in terms of food security.
‘If I could grade [the govt’s response], it would be -800 billion, because that’s how much China has taken from the West Philippine Sea‘, said Sen. Risa in Filipino.
According to the lawmaker, PHP 200 billion worth of coral reefs has been destroyed, while PHP 600 billion worth of fish has been poached from the waters.
As for the supposed threat of war should the Philippines intervene, a common narrative espoused by the key officials, Sen. Risa denies that this is an immediate possibility.
‘Our win in Hague is a diplomatic tool, so it’s a peaceful ‘weapon’ we can use in our fight’, said the senator.
‘No one ever said they want war. History has taught us how painful and bitter a potential conflict would be. That would be the very, very last option. We are for diplomatic solutions. Let’s be creative in defending what is ours.’
Ang Pamalakaya Chairman Ka Pando Hicap
As the chairman of the fisherfolk organization ‘Ang Pamalakaya’, Ka Pando Hicap is all about protecting the right to benefit from Philippine waters, while staving off the intrusion of outside forces.
‘Many livelihoods depend on the West Philippine Sea’, said Ka Pando, who also stressed WPS’ crucial role in maintaining the food supply.
‘For example, according to the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), 80% of the supply of galunggong comes from the WPS. The area was once a breeding ground because of the rich coral reefs.’
‘That is before China reclaimed the area’.
According to Ka Pando, the artificial islands cover 16,000 hectares of what were once fishing grounds, amounting to PHP 1.92 trillion in damages.
Senator Kiko Pangilinan
Another passionate critic of the lukewarm approach to the WPS issue, Senator Kiko Pangilinan expounded on how favorable the Hague ruling is when it comes to the country’s arguments against China.
‘Even Vietnam is citing the decision in their arguments against China. Even Australia. So it really is internationally recognized and respected’, said Senator Kiko.
The lawmaker also pointed out the size of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), underscoring just how much territory is at stake in the dispute.
‘Our EEZ is 500,000 sq km. The entire Philippines is at 300,000 sq km. That’s almost double’, stressed the lawmaker.
‘Why then would we choose not to fight for it? Why would we have utang na loob when the area is ours in the first place?’
Sen. Kiko also clarified that the West Philippine Sea issue transcends any political parties. He says that according to the polls, over 90% of Filipinos desire stronger actions against China’s intrusion.
‘This is not about being yellow, white, red, or blue. This is about being a Filipino’.
As a final note, Sen. Kiko shared how we could do our part in triggering some action from our leaders.
‘Write to your congressmen. Write to your senators. Post on your Twitter or Facebook pages. Whenever an issue about China comes up, write to the cabinet secretaries.’
‘The government will change when it’s the people themselves who are calling out their faults’.