Why Is There Less Concern About Vietnamese Illegal Fishing in the West Philippine Sea?

Mauro Gia Samonte’s opinion article on The Manila Times titled “The Joker in the West Philippine Sea Battle” which demonstrates how Vietnam’s activities in the West Philippine Sea hasn’t received as much attention as those of China’s was an eye-opener for me.

To wit:

“Based on the actual condition in the region, the three major nations having occupancy in the West Philippine Sea are: Philippines, 9 islands; China, 8; and Vietnam, 27 islands, with 49 outposts. Clearly from this record, granting that the Philippines’ claim to the area is valid, all the more reason it must have to protest Vietnamese incursions than Chinese, and yet all throughout the past administration, not even a squeak has been heard against Vietnam; not a single diplomatic protest filed.”

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(Note: A statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs on June 13, 2022 claims to have filed six protests. See here.

Further on, he writes

“It should be a good thing that a group of Filipino fishermen has taken pains to sound the alarm over the sighting of Vietnamese fishing vessels poaching in the Katimugan South Reef of the Spratly Islands which is claimed by the Philippines as part of its exclusive economic zone. Pictures were taken of the Vietnamese fishing vessels and one boat “qng37097ts” was clearly identified. According to the fishermen, they have submitted their report and photos of the Vietnamese poachers to the Philippine Coast Guard, hoping that action can be taken. The fishermen aver that the Vietnamese poachers have been frequently observed to use illegal techniques such as dynamite, superlight, compressor and cyanide fishing, resulting in massive damage to the reefs that nurture the fishes. In none of the instances of similar reported Chinese poachers in the WPS has any of the cited illegal fishing techniques been involved. Quantified in terms of damage, the Vietnamese have scored 100 percent and the Chinese none, and yet in terms of propaganda, it has always been a 100 percent China destruction.”

During his visit to New York, President Bongbong Marcos was applauded when he stated our case with regard to our “territorial challenge” with China in the West Philippine Sea.

“As a consequence of this challenge that we have… this diplomatic, this territorial challenge that we have… I would like to point out that this is the first national elections in the Philippines where foreign policy was an issue with the people. Generally speaking, in our experience, foreign policy… the ordinary citizen… the ordinary voter would say ‘well foreign policy is not really our concern, let the experts in government decide that’. But when it happens that our fishermen are not allowed to continue with their livelihood to fish in areas where they have fished for the last thirty, forty generations… Then it becomes an issue right at the gut of our people.”

However, we have yet to see what his statement in New York means in terms of actual orders as Agriculture Secretary or even as the Commander in Chief of our military.

Will we see a significant increase in the number of surveillance and patrol missions by our police, Coast Guard, and Navy in areas where illegal fishing by China or Vietnam is frequently reported?

Perhaps it is still too early to give President any marks at this stage but the 31 million who voted along with those who didn’t vote for him are struggling to put food on the table and what would probably ease the burden for them would be affordably priced fish from our own seas.

 

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