Philippine Daily Inquirer | 12/24/2008
Probe foreign poachers, DFA asked
By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Southern Luzon Bureau
Filed Under: Foreign affairs & international relations
LUCENA CITY — The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is urging the Department of Foreign Affairs to investigate the reported entry of foreign fishing vessels allegedly feasting on rich tuna grounds in the portions of Philippine Sea in Aurora province.
"The situation is very, very alarming. The Philippine waters which is part of the country’s national territory has become an open city for foreign fishing plunderers, yet the government through the foreign affairs department has not done anything to stop this round-the-clock invasion of foreign factory ships," Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The fishing vessels were reportedly owned by Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies.
Hicap also asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to file a diplomatic protest amid regular poaching by foreign vessels of the country’s fishery resources that should have been reserved for the livelihood of Filipinos.
"Secretary Romulo should immediately notify the embassies and consulates of these countries in Manila and lodge a strongly worded diplomatic protest for violating the country’s national patrimony and sovereignty," Hicap said.
He warned that if the DFA official would not file protest, the Pamalakaya would submit its own and stage mass actions in the embassies of the countries where the foreign poachers come from.
Hicap said they were now preparing the letters of diplomatic protest against the governments of Japan, Taiwan, and Korea over the intrusion of their factory ships in Philippine waters to be submitted to their embassies and consulates in Manila.
Last week, no less than Senator Edgardo Angara, a native of Aurora province, reported the encroaching of foreign sea vessels on portions of the Philippine Sea in Aurora to fish for tuna.
Angara said that at least eight foreign fishing vessels, some with canneries, come almost daily during the January-July tuna season.
Alarmed with the invasion of foreign fishing vessels, Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, asked the Philippine Coast Guard to establish a station in northern Aurora and assign patrol boats there to protect the province’s waters from poachers.
Hicap said a 3,000 single-ton tuna factory ship, accompanied by support fishing fleets can catch as much as 150 metric tons of tuna on a 24-hour operation basis.
"By industry standard, a single factory ship could harvest 50,000 metric tons of tuna per year," said the Pamalakaya leader.
Hicap estimated that the eight fishing vessels that regularly poach in the waters of Aurora province daily from January to July, would reap a total haul of 27,000 tons of tuna per factory ship during the period or a total of 216,000 metric tons of tuna for all the eight fishing vessels.
He claimed that the owners of the eight fishing vessels could have earned as much as US $1.274 billion or US $160 million per fishing vessel in just six months from tuna poaching in Aurora and other tuna-rich waters of the Philippine territory.
Hicap predicted that the Philippine fishery situation would get worse with the Senate ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) last October.
He noted that under the agreement, the Philippine government fully recognized the entry of Japanese factory ships into Philippine waters.
"That’s one of the major consequences and implications of JPEPA. Ironically, Senator Angara is one of the senators that actively sponsored and argued for the RP-Japan trade pact ratification. Now his province is being made as a sacrifice to the altar of this onerous economic partnership pact," he lamented.