(File photo)

Seafarers’ partylist group Angkla echoed what they call a disappointment on the part of many seafarers with the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea.

According to former Rep. Jesulito Manalo, who is also the first nominee of the group, “Freedom of navigation is an important issue for seafarers. Like our sovereignty, this is non-negotiable. Bullying in the sea such as what is happening in the WPS also endangers Filipino seafarers and fishermen, important stakeholders of the maritime sector.”

Angkla’s statement was issued in light of last week’s incident in Ayungin Shoal where Chinese ships blocked and used water cannons against Philippine boats containing food supplies for Filipino soldiers stationed in the area which is part of the Kalayaan group of islands.

Meanwhile, Engr. Sam Lim, Chairman of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SONAME), said, “While diplomatic protests have their place in handling such issues, we believe that China will continue these transgressions and intrusions if we will not go beyond protests and statements. We need to strengthen our naval defense fast instead of just acquiring vessels from overseas at very high prices.”

Lim also stated that the national government should relentlessly pursue self-reliance in defending its national territory and ensuring freedom of navigation.

“This can only be done by building vessels locally similar to what our neighboring countries like Indonesia has been doing,” he added.

Manalo also mentioned that the development of the domestic shipbuilding industry will help thousands of shipyard workers and their families.