GITAGUM, Misamis Orientral – Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso on Tuesday vowed that if elected, he will insist on Philippine sovereignty over Panatag Shoal and will protect Filipino fishermen going to disputed waters by accompanying them aboard a Navy ship “if needed.”
Moreno made the vow when asked by reporters here on his West Philippine Sea policy and how he would protect Filipino fishermen from harassment by China Coast Guard (CCG) patrols, particularly in Panatag Shoal, amid the Chinese government’s insistence that the area is part of their territory.
“Basta tayo we will insist on the Hague ruling, and we will fish in our waters that includes Panatag shoal. If I need to go with the fisherfolks, I’ll be with them. If Zelensky can do it, we can do it also,” Moreno said in an interview after making a courtesy call to Mayor Emmanuel Mugot before embarking on a motorcade in this Northern Mindanao town.
Moreno was referring to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky who has risked life and limb to stand by his people despite the constant bombardment by Russian forces trying to overrun his country’s capital.
“Meron namang tayong frigates. I’ll be there, why not, (but) not through jet ski. I’m going to be fair with you, I don’t want to overpromise things. Basta tayo, we’ll be there. We’ll protect our fishermen. We need to fish in our oceans within our sovereign territory, and that includes Panatag Shoal,” Moreno stressed.
The 47-year-old presidential bet clarified, however, that he is not engage in war-mongering and will exhaust all diplomatic means to solve the impasse and avoid armed confrontation as much as possible.
But should the country’s sovereignty will be threatened under a Moreno administration Moreno said he will not shirk on his responsibilities to defend the Filipino people even in the face of insurmountable adversities, liked what our heroes and forefathers did in fighting for our independence.
“I will not go to war hangga’t kayang iwasan. Tayo hindi tayo makikipag-away. Pero tandaan niyo, hindi rin tayo nagpapa-api. I don’t want to create another problem. As of now, marami tayong problema na kinakaharap ng tao. But alam niyo, pag natutulak ka sa pader, nangangagat din ang api,” Moreno explained.
And China can insist all they want, Moreno said, maintaining that historically, and as affirmed by the Hague ruling, Panatag Shoal and the rest of the Philippine Sea within the country’s exclusive economic zone is Philippine sovereign territory.
Just last Monday, March 28, Beijing urged the Philippine government to “earnestly respect” China’s sovereignty and “avoid interfering” with the patrol operations of the CCG.
“They can spin what they want to spin, but my obligation if elected president is to protect all Filipino citizens anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world. That is the job of the president. And that includes our resources and geography. We are a sovereign country,” the Manila city mayor said.
“If they want respect, I think respect should be given back to us. it’s ours, nothing more, nothing less, technically, historically. They may claim what they want to claim. They can say what they want to say. As far as history is concerned, as far as technical aspect is concerned, acceptable laws existing in the world, acceptable to all other nations, it’s ours,” Moreno pointed out.
Ever since he had declared his presidential candidacy, Moreno had continuously reiterated his vow to be “fearless” in fighting for the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
The first was during Team Isko’s Listening Tour last November 11 in Botolan, Zambales where he vowed to assert the Hague Ruling and build the country’s capacity to defend its waters in securing unimpeded access for small fisherfolk to abundant fishing grounds.
The most recent was during TV5’s Serve the Nation presidential interviews where he reinforced his vow, saying that he will not hesitate to do what Indonesian leader Joko Widodo did to enforce Philippine sovereignty.
Widodo has made strong messages and taken significant action against China’s activities and claims in Natuna Sea, which lies in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. Under his watch, his former fisheries minister has chased away, even blown up, Chinese fishing vessels. Indonesia then put up a new military base on the Natuna Islands and has ramped up regular patrols in the area.
“While it is true that there is a possibility na itong mga banyagang ito ay malalakas militarily, but you know, mali eh. Mali is mali. Pero gustong-gusto ko yung kay Widodo kasi wala ng umulit after that,” Moreno had said.
In the meantime, the Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate reiterated that the Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States will not only be honored but will be reinforced if he wins in the May 9 elections.
This after the Philippines and the United States launched the largest-ever joint military drills in the archipelago nation on Monday, signaling deepening defense ties as fresh tensions surface in the disputed South China Sea. Nearly 9,000 Filipino and American soldiers will take part in the 12-day training event across the main island of Luzon, which is usually an annual affair but was cancelled or curtailed during the pandemic.
“Palalawakin pa natin yon para mapagtibay natin yung kakayanan ng ating military and uniformed personnel – skills, existing technology, mga gamit pang-giyera na pwede nating matutunan – para pagdating ng araw, magkaroon tayo ng salapi, sobrang salapi matapos nating itawid ang tao, then we’ll equip our (military) for defense of our country and nation, and every Filipino,” said Moreno.
Moreno also reiterated his vow to collect the P203 billion estate tax debts of the Marcoses, planning to utilize part of the funds to strengthen the Philippine Coast Guards maritime patrol capabilities by buying medium-sized vessels.
“Kasi sayang naman magagamit natin ‘yun, for example, let’s just say ngayon may insidente na naman sa news about West Philippine Sea. For purposes of simple mathematics, if a Navy ship, Coast Guard, medium-size, ‘yung katamtaman lang with speed, it costs about $10 million, that’s P500 million most likely. Kung bumili tayo ng sampu nun, P5 billion pesos lang, marami pa rin tayong magagamit sa P203 billion. Fertilizer para sa magsasaka, ayuda sa tao. Kasi talagang grabe ang krisis na kinakaharap ng tao ngayon. So, marami tayong magagamit. Anyway, ang maganda naman diyan, gagamitin natin for public service sa taong bayan,” Moreno said.#