By MAJOY SISCAR
MANILA— A fisherfolk group expressed concerns over ongoing talks among legislators to amend the Philippine Constitution, saying this may lead to the easing if not the elimination of safeguards that uphold the country’s sovereignty and the protection of its oceans and natural resources from foreign plunder.
In a statement, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) warned that implementing the charter change might allow foreign fishing boats, particularly those from China, to further intrude on Philippine seas.
“Fisherfolks are worried that foreign plunder of our seas and natural resources may intensify if the protections provided by the existing Constitution are scrapped,” the group said
Pamalakaya chairperson Fernando Hicap, a former Anakpawis Partylist representative, told the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should be reminded of the presence of large Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
This, he said, has already posed problems for small Filipino fisherfolks even without the proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution.
“What more if the one provision of our constitution that protects our sovereignty is entirely repealed? This will normalize interactions between foreign vessels conducting extensive fishing trips in our territorial seas and Filipino fishing communities,” Hicap said.
Hicap urged the public to oppose measures pushing for Cha-cha as this would pave the way for increased foreign ownership claims in the country’s key industries.
Relations between the Philippines and China have long been strained by a maritime dispute, notably following a 2016 arbitral decision that invalidated the claims of the latter.
Marcos had previously stated that China has promised to “find a compromise and find a solution” to the dilemma facing Filipinos who want to resume fishing in their traditional haunts in the West Philippine Sea.
However, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution states that “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.” (JJE, RTS)