Mar Roxas: We will defend what is ours

“Ang para sa Pilipinas ay dapat manatili sa kamay ng Pilipino. Dedepensahan natin ang atin!” This was how Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II capsulized the position of the Aquino administration amid the pressing concerns and interconnected problems caused by Chinese-instigated harassment of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc as reported by concerned fisherfolk organizations and local government units (LGUs) in Region III.

Roxas made the statement during a Stakeholder’s Convergence Dialogue with Fisherfolk regarding the situation in Bajo de Masinloc in Masinloc, Zambales, on Tuesday.

The leaders of the firsherfolk organizations told of their experiences in Scarborough Shoal, particularly in Bajo de Masinloc, where they were driven away by Chinese coast guard men and fishermen.

Despite the harsh treatment that local fishermen receive from other nationalities, Roxas maintains “that diplomacy, not violence, will give justice to our people affected by China’s territorial claims,” referring to the current petition of the Philippine government in the United Nations (UN).

“Ang ating pamahalaan ay nagpadala ng isang high-level mission sa Europa, sa United Nations. Sisikapin natin na malutas ito sa mapayapang paraan. Hindi tayo naghahanap ng gulo, pero hindi tayo papayag, hindi tayo tatahimik na lang kung ‘yung sa atin ay aagawin ng iba,” Roxas said.

He also assured the fisherfolk organizations that the national government will employ the “whole of government approach in addressing the problems which are rooted in China’s territorial claims in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).”

The DILG chief also encouraged the fisherfolk organizations to strengthen their coordination with the LGUs, and to immediately report illegal fishing to the authorities, particularly to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group and Philippine Coast Guard (PNP).