Hearing in Masinloc, Zambales asserts Philippines’ sovereignty over West Philippine Sea amid Chinese presence

- Advertisement -

Masinloc, ZAMBALES—A significant hearing was held today to assert the Philippines’ claim and sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea. However, during the proceedings, a Chinese dredger was spotted patrolling the waters off Bucao, Zambales, raising concerns and questions about its presence.

The dredger, HONG FA 158, under a bareboat charter with Oromarine is identified as being operated by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a contractor to a reclamation project in Manila Bay, and has ties to the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

The CCCC has been implicated in the reclamation and construction of artificial islands in the contested waters of the West Philippine Sea.

This sighting has been described as a “slap in the face” and a “mockery of our sovereignty.” The presence of the dredger is particularly contentious given the suspension of sand dredging activities in Zambales following environmental complaints led by Heidi Fernandez of the SAVE Zambales Kalikasan Movement.

Former Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. previously recommended terminating contracts with Chinese firms sanctioned for their involvement in China’s controversial island-building campaign in the South China Sea. This recommendation came after the United States sanctioned several Chinese companies for their role in the reclamation and militarization of the disputed waters.

MARINE BIODIVERSITY

Protecting the marine bio-diversity and natural resources of Zambales is not only crucial for environmental sustainability but also for safeguarding the livelihoods of the fisherfolk who rely on these waters.

In addition, ongoing disputes in the West Philippine Sea directly impact their ability to fish and sustain their communities, making it imperative to address both ecological preservation and the economic well-being of local residents.

In response to these issues, House Speaker Martin Romualdez called for unity in supporting the rights of Filipino fisherfolk at Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal).

During a public consultation and joint hearing by the House committees on national defense and security and the West Philippine Sea, Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr. delivered Romualdez’s message to local fishermen and officials.

RIGHT TO FISH

“You are not alone in this fight. Various sectors of society, including your representatives Jefferson Khonghun and Doris Maniquiz, stand with you. Their offices are open to address your concerns,” said Gonzales, reiterating Romualdez’s message. “Let’s remain united and continue to fight for our right to fish in Bajo de Masinloc, which is part of our territory and belongs to the Philippines.”

Fishermen from Masinloc and Sta. Cruz shared their harrowing experiences of harassment by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), including recent water cannon attacks. These incidents have severely impacted the livelihoods of approximately 1,400 fishermen in the region.

The hearing, presided over by Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas and Gonzales, saw attendance from several lawmakers, including Rep. Dan Fernandez, Rep. Richard Gomez, and Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong, among others. Their presence underscored the national significance of the issue and the collective resolve to uphold the country’s sovereignty and support its fisherfolk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JUST IN

More Stories