The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) lauds President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. for asserting Philippine sovereignty by sending a strong message to the ASEAN that “we must never allow the international peaceful order to be subjected to the forces of might applied for a hegemonic ambition.” In this light, the TUCP expresses grave concern about the damning proof of incursion and long-term damaging impact of these tensions in the West Philippine Sea as the Philippine Coast Guard’s underwater survey revealed significant destruction of reefs in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal which are believed to have been caused by foreign maritime militia.
Such illegal coral harvesting has far-reaching ramifications for our fishing rights and food security. Filipinos now are reduced to buying fish harvested in our own waters by another country. Those blatant irresponsible actions are driving millions of our kababayan to the vicious cycle of hunger and property.
Defending the West Philippine Sea is fighting for what is ours. Those reefs fall within our exclusive economic zone. The 2016 ruling of the International Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague already debunked contrarian claims under the guise of ‘historical rights’ which have no basis in law and in fact. With our friends, partners, and allies, we should collectively stand up to any bully, or else our kababayan will forever live and work under fear and deprivation.
The Philippine labor movement’s ‘15-Point Labor Agenda’ includes the assertion of sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea to defend the livelihood of rural workers around the area, especially fisherfolk.
The massive damage uncovered in the Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal reflects a deliberate continuing pattern of aggressive ecological harm which comes at a high cost. The scientists’ group AGHAM estimates that we are losing more than ₱1 trillion annually due to damaged coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea. Not only are these a source of tourism but the key to our rich biodiversity. We should preserve our reefs for our national interest and for our own food needs.
These same maritime militia are rivaling our very own fisherfolk as the Department of Agriculture (DA) estimates that one ton of fish may be lost per militia vessel poaching in the West Philippine Sea. Each and every day, the Homonhon Environmental Rescue Organization (Hero), citing the National Task Force for West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) data, said that 240,000 kilos of fish are illegally taken by vessels which should never have been there in the first place. It is infuriating that we, Filipinos, are losing this potential to harvest to feed poor Filipinos. What should be our sea of peace and prosperity is now a seeming wasteland, empty of life.
The TUCP supports the Marcos Administration’s call to expedite the negotiations for a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea. Towards a sea of peace and prosperity, we call on all nations to prioritize the immediate crafting of the Code of Conduct with emphasis on freedom of navigation to calm tensions and seize the fullest potential of the West Philippine Sea. It is only through regional stability that we can pursue mutually beneficial global cooperation and trade between our nations and our respective peoples.