Press Release
June 18, 2024

As WPS dispute rages, Tolentino urges national gov't agencies to work with LGUs to provide alternative livelihoods for displaced fisherfolk

Masinloc, Zambales - Senate Majority Leader Senator Francis 'Tol' Tolentino is calling on national government agencies, particularly the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), to work closely with local governments to provide alternative livelihoods for fisherfolk groups affected by the raging West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute.

On Monday (June 17), Tolentino visited three coastal municipalities - Sta. Cruz, Masinloc, and Subic - this province, where he provided assistance to more than 500 fisherfolk. He also led town hall meetings dubbed, 'Talakayang WPS,' together with local government leaders, representatives from BFAR and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), as well as leaders and members of various fishers' cooperatives and associations.

"We will explore what alternative means of livelihood can be provided, and I promise to press our government agencies to assist you," the senator assured local fisherfolk.

In a joint media interview with the senator, Mayor Arsenia Lim disputed claims that the municipal government is preventing local fisherfolk from sailing to Bajo de Masinloc - following the reported June 15 enforcement of China's new Coast Guard regulation that authorizes its coast guard to detain for 60 days what the Chinese government calls 'trespassers' in its claimed territories in the WPS.

The mayor, however, appealed to fisherfolk to take precautions by registering their names with the municipal government, to allow authorities to identify them and monitor their location, and assist them during emergencies. She also reminded the fisherfolk to avoid areas in the reef where they would likely face danger.

In the same interview, PCG Commander Severino Destura Jr. assured that coast guard personnel are prepared to assist and protect local fishers.

"Walang nagbabawal sa atin na mangisda sa Bajo de Masinloc kaya ang mga barko ng PCG ay patuloy na nagbabantay. Ang advise lang po namin ay iwasan lang na lumapit at mangisda kung saan maaaring mag-provoke sa mga CCG vessels, lalo na kung walang presence ng PCG sa area. Po-proteksyunan po namin kayo sa abot ng aming makakaya. Bago kayo magpalaot, ipaalam nyo po sa amin, saan kayo pupunta, o anong bangka gamit n'yo, para ma-monitor namin ang activity n'yo. Sa LGU at barangay, tulungan n'yo po kami na i-monitor ang mga mangingisda. Napaka-delikado po pag unregistered ang fishermen," Destura explained.

Meanwhile, Tolentino expressed confidence that the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act (Senate Bill No. 2492), which he principally authored and sponsored, will be passed and enacted following the resumption of the Senate session in July. Tolentino also chairs the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones.

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