Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
An analysis of activity in the West Philippine Sea conducted by the Gregory Poling of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Vulcan Inc.’s Skylight Maritime Initiative that used satellite, radar and infrared images taken over a span of six months, showed an alarming increase of fishing vessels – mostly Chinese in the waters that not only further degrade marine resources in the area but also increased risks of armed conflict over disputed waters.
The project involved tracking the movements of fishing vessels through an Automatic Identification System, Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and Synthetic Aperture Radar in the South China Sea.
Poling said, the results of the study “tell a worrying story about the scale of unseen fishing activity in the region, massive overcapacity in the Spratlys, especially on the Chinese side, and the stunning scale and expense of maritime militia.”
“The fisheries and fishers of the South China Sea warrant much more attention. The disputes over the islands, reefs and waters in the area have made effective fisheries management impossible, even as a calamitous stock collapse threatens livelihoods around the region,” he added.
The phenomenon of the so-called “maritime militia” has already been raised a few years ago after hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels monitored in the West Philippine Sea and other disputed portions of the South China Sea were suspected not to be fishing, but actually resupplying Beijing military installations in the area and acting as another move to enforce its ridiculous territorial claims.
Poling recommends that the improved monitoring of the fleets would be critical if the claimants hope to save South China Sea fisheries resources and reduce the frequency of uncalled for incidents between vessels.
The Think tanks monitoring the disputed waters and even those that are supposed to be the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines can only make recommendations and issue warnings ,but nothing will happen if our government is not willing to act to protect Filipino territory, resources and interests in the West Philippine Sea.
Is our government even worried about what is going on in the West Philippine Sea, and in huge swathes of our EEZ that should be part of our national territory under international law? Or have our leaders already given away those waters and all the riches that are in it?*