A lawmaker from the Philippines expressed disagreement on Monday with the idea of assigning fishermen intelligence and security responsibilities in the country’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. This is due to concerns for their safety amidst escalating tensions with China.
According to a statement from Party-list Rep. Alfred C. de los Santos, the task should be carried out by soldiers, professionals, and trained reservists rather than fishermen.
“He suggested utilizing the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) auxiliaries and military reservists in the event that the PCG and Armed Forces of the Philippines require additional manpower for gathering evidence and intelligence.”
Earlier, Chairman Elizaldy S. Co of the House of Representatives appropriations committee announced that legislators plan to redirect the total amount of P650 million in confidential and intelligence funds from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to intelligence and security offices.
The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Security Council (NSA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will all receive funding for intelligence.
On Wednesday evening, the House approved House Bill 8980, also known as the General Appropriations bill, during its third and final reading. The Senators are currently conducting budget hearings and are anticipated to pass their own version of the bill next month.
According to Chester B. Cabalza, the original leader of International Development and Security Cooperation in Manila, it is crucial for Filipino fishermen to receive training in maritime domain due to their heightened vulnerability to escalating tensions in the disputed waters.
According to a conversation on Facebook Messenger, in China, the fishermen in the South China Sea are skilled members of the maritime militia and act as informants to collect intelligence. They are specifically trained to defend their country’s interests in the maritime area.
According to him, fishermen have a vested interest in the West Philippine Sea, which includes parts of the South China Sea that fall under the country’s economic zone. He stated that teaching them to be “maritime warriors” would be advantageous for coastal communities.
The country of China asserts ownership of over 80% of the South China Sea, despite a 2016 decision by a UN-supported court that invalidated their claim, which was based on a map from the 1940s.
The Philippines has not been successful in implementing the decision and has instead submitted numerous complaints about what it perceives as China’s infringement and mistreatment of its coast guard and fishermen through China’s extensive fishing fleet.
According to Mr. Cabalza, China may increase its efforts in public diplomacy and collaborate with various political figures at both the national and local levels in response to backlash against its actions in the South China Sea.
Last week, Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio held a meeting with Zhao Long, the Governor of Fujian province in China, in Davao City. This meeting marked the renewal of the sister city agreement between Davao City and Fujian province. Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte also met with the Chinese official.
According to the speaker, China is working on improving its image among Filipinos by strengthening relationships with influential political figures and established political families.
“The contrast between national security and regional or provincial resilience creates a gap in promoting a strong national agenda,” he stated, acknowledging that numerous local leaders prioritize their own narrow interests over those of the nation.
According to Mr. Cabalza, the weakness in our foreign policy lies in this area. He believes there needs to be a specific policy outlining the limits of local governments’ collaborations with cities in other countries. It is important for foreign policy to be clearly defined so that local officials can comply with it.
During their conversation, Ms. Carpio and Mr. Zhao talked about the export of durian from Davao to China.
“I initiated this negotiation while serving as the mayor of Davao City, with assistance from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Davao,” she stated.
Mayor Sebastian Duterte, the brother of Ms. Carpio, was also present at the gathering.
The Duterte family holds significant influence in Davao City and has a history of close connections with China.
The former President shifted their foreign policy towards China in 2016, hoping to receive investment commitments. However, only a small number of these commitments actually came to fruition.
“Engaging with political leaders is a crucial aspect of diplomacy,” shared Lucio B. Pitlo III, a research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, through a Messenger conversation. “Significant nations are dedicating resources to this effort.”
China will follow suit. Anticipate China to make progress in this aspect, welcoming foreign leaders with open arms after a nearly three-year pause caused by the pandemic,” he stated.
According to Mr. Pitlo, the Philippines holds significance in China’s neighborhood diplomacy. It is anticipated that China will make a considerable effort to win over the country and facilitate discussions to resolve any disputes.
In the past few months, there has been an increase in tensions between these countries. The Philippines has made a promise to confront China’s extensive actions within their exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
According to Mr. Pitlo, it is common for government officials in the Philippines to receive and hold meetings with their counterparts from China, as China is the biggest trade partner of the Philippines.
There are many topics to discuss, including economics and security. – Beatriz Marie D. Cruz and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza