West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — Activist Walden Bello and Senator Francis Pangilinan clashed on the issue of how the country’s maritime territories should be secured during the vice presidential debate hosted on Saturday by CNN Philippines.

“Well, I’m prepared to fight for our rights over the waters of our exclusive economic zone and not be subservient. Hindi tayo pupwedeng sunud-sunuran sa China. Gusto natin makipag-kaibigan sa China pero ‘wag naman dahil sa pagkakaibigan natin sa kanila ay igi-give up na natin ‘yung 550,000 square kilometers of sovereign and exclusive economic zone,” Pangilinan said.

(We cannot just follow China. We want to be friends with China but not to the point where we would give up our 550,000 square kilometers of sovereign and exclusive economic zone.)

Pangilinan also lamented that the monthly earnings of Filipino fisherfolk have dropped from P40,000 to P60,000 to just P3,000.

Pangilinan added that the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy should resume their patrols in the country’s maritime areas and protect these from illegal fishing, especially foreign fishers.

“Ngayon, dahil wala na ‘yung Coast Guard, wala na ‘yung Navy, wala nang pumoprotekta sa kanila. So, dapat i-resume ‘yung patrol, dapat i-resume ‘yung Coast Guard para ‘pag naroon ‘yung ating mangingisda, mayroon silang takbuhan,” he proposed.

(Now, since the Coast Guard and Navy are not there, no one protects the fisherfolk. So, the Coast Guard should resume its patrols so our fishers can run to someone.)

Pangilinan added that the Philippines should also strengthen ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and other countries.

“We will have to engage with Asean. Indonesia, Vietnam, they are also concerned about the aggression of China. We should align with Asean neighbors, who together we can strengthen our position that is aggression is not right,” he said.

“The [United States], Australia, Japan are also concerned about this nine-dash line illegal claim, fake claim. And we have to also align and strengthen our alliances with them so that we have a broad alliance that will assert or will oppose this unacceptable nine-dash claim of China,” he went on.

Bello however countered Pangilinan saying the Philippines should have an independent foreign policy.

“We will join the Quad? Come on. This is dominated by the Australia, US (United States), etcetera. You said we are going to align with Quad. That is consistent with the Aquino administration’s pro-US policy,” referring to late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

/MUF

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