One issue that has been a major flash point in the news the past so many years have been the situation faced by our fisher folk in the disputed areas located in the West Philippine Sea. And because of the fishing ban imposed by China off the coast of Busuanga, the lives of our fishermen and those who reside in some of the outlying islands have been faced with uncertainty.
To ascertain for himself what our countrymen are truly facing, senatorial aspirant, Robin Padilla together with King Cortez of Unibersidad de Manila, John Verlin Santos of Titik Poetry, Ricardo Penson a Filipino business executive and social activist, Philippine Coast Guard representatives, and fishermen aboard a fishing vessel of Frabelle Corporation Victor 88 went out to document the experience and to provide relief goods to the people in PagAsa island, with special approval from the Philippine authorities.
As the expedition made their way to PagAsa Island, they encountered quite a number of huge Chinese fishing vessels and even a Vietnamese vessel in the areas surrounding Reed Bank still within Philippine territorial waters and supposed exclusive economic zone.
After a few days of sailing, Robin Padilla and his crew finally arrived at PagAsa Island and were assisted by the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard personnel stationed at Naval Station Emilio Liwanag to distribute treats and food assistance to our countrymen living on the island, the proverbial front line facing the Chinese occupation of disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.
As the crew made their tour on board a rubber boat of the surrounding islands that compose PagAsa in a routine maritime patrol operation of the Philippine Navy, they received constant radio challenges from the Chinese to leave the area immediately who claimed the area to be under Chinese territorial control and even were approached by a major Chinese Coast Guard Vessel.
In an act of defiance, the Filipinos sang patriotic Filipino songs and repeated their radio responses that the Chinese were in fact in Philippine territory.
In the more than two-hour video account aired in YouTube entitled “Isang Linggong Pag-Ibig”, the entire ordeal faced by Padilla and crew from encountering engine troubles, hardships during the journey, to constant warnings from the Chinese who tried to stop the team was shown.
In a line from the produced documentary, Padilla, when the fishermen and the Philippine Navy personnel asked why he was risking his life to be with them, the actor-philanthropist and senatorial hopeful said, “I want to be part of your heroic acts, gusto ko maging part, maging bahagi ng kabayanihan ninyo.”
PagAsa locals reported that the Chinese fishermen have destroyed corals, have employed questionable fishing practices like cyanide and dynamite fishing which have affected the fishing activities of our countrymen who cannot approach the rich fishing areas. They added that that have been harassed constantly by the Chinese Coast Guard, and just rely on the gallant efforts of the Philippine military detachment who despite all odds try to protect the islands aboard rubber boats in rough waters.
Padilla lauded the heroism and admired the efforts of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard enlisted men for loving the country enough to risk their lives daily to assert the country’s sovereignty over the disputed islands.
“Kayo,” referring to the men and women in PagAsa, both civilians and members of the military, “ang nag re representa ng kalayaan nating mga Pilipino,” said Padila and vowed to make sure that if elected as Senator will work hard towards ensuring that adequate support be given to these heroes.
In a heart melting moment Padilla and his crew put up the Philippine flag in one of the islands in PagAsa as the Chinese watched as they prepared to sail to the other islands on their way back to Manila after seven-days at sea.
On the way back, Padilla had the chance to also provide some goods to boost the morale of the handful of troops in BRP Sierra Madre, a deliberately grounded ship located on Second Thomas Shoal to mark the claim of the Philippines to the reef in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea.
Watch the full video at https://youtu.be/qpCXA6UXIoE to see for yourself what the West Philippine Sea issue is all about from the point of view of a Filipino patriot.