By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
The question of how critical marine resources are to the country’s food security was raised in an ongoing CNN Philippines special titled “The Way Forward.”
It presents data that some two million fishermen catch about 4.4 million metric tons of fish to feed 110 million Filipinos. Yet amid their contribution to the overall food supply, they live in miserable situations as among the lowest income earners.
Add to that the hazards faced by many who venture into the West Philippine Sea, our sovereign territory that has been made into a playground by encroaching Chinese vessels.
Our fishermen could catch more and feed the nation abundantly if only Chinese fishing vessels did not encroach on our waters unchallenged.
* * *
In the run-up to the first in-person ASEAN summit and related meetings last Nov. 10-13 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our leaders once again vowed to raise these maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
However, China continues to act like a bully in these international fora, negotiating only under bilateral terms where its strength is best exercised. Each time there is a consensus among a group of nations, Beijing refuses to deal.
* * *
Consequently, the Philippines – which has won the arbitral ruling against China before The Hague – is left in a miserable situation. Our archipelagic nation’s rich supply of fish is seen to last only until January.
Pathetic, isn’t it? For a nation with one of the largest shares of coastal cover in the world, we would need to import fish.
On the other hand, some Filipinos are proud to say that China is a good neighbor, donating Sinovac vaccines and PPEs worth tens of millions of dollars. Yet, at the same time, she prevents our local fishermen from going to their traditional fishing grounds, even stealing fish in our territorial waters.
Yes, China donates tens of millions of dollars in vaccines and PPEs, and she steals from us tens of billions of dollars in fish.
Hoy gising! Ginigisa tayo sa sarili nating mantika! Parang mga pulitikong pulpol din iyan na nagbibigay ng tulong sa tao na ninakaw din naman sa kaban ng bayan na galing din sa taumbayan.
* * *
It’s also sickening how we have held on to keeping Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in our midst when the right thing to do is to shut them down.
As pointed out by Manila 6th District Rep. Benny Abante in his measure to prohibit POGOs in the country, “the continued operation of POGOs is a public exhibition and confession of frustration over, and inability to properly address, our pitiful national economic condition,” which comes at the expense of the moral fiber of Filipinos.
Abante is correct that to argue that we need the revenues generated from POGOs is an outright admission by this administration of its helplessness and its “surrender in bended knees to the rule of the unarmed enemy of society called gambling.”
* * *
SHORTBURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at