Entrance to Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal. (Photo from Asia Maritime Transparency Institute, 2016)

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. maintained that the Philippines is leaning away from any form of conflict on issues hounding the West Philippine Sea but emphasized that the government has to stand firm on its defense to protect the welfare of the fishermen and the country’s territorial rights in an interview on Friday at the sidelines of the rice distribution event held in Dapa, Surigao del Norte.

“Umiiwas nga tayo sa gulo. Umiiwas tayo sa mga maiinit na salita. Ngunit matibay ang ating pagdepensa sa teritoryo ng Pilipinas,” Marcos said.

The president made the remarks when asked about his recent directive to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to remove the floating barriers in Scarborough Shoal that were apparently set up by the China Coast Guard (CCG) to stop Filipino fishermen.

Marcos said there is nothing else that could be done for the floating barriers, which blocked Filipino fishermen from productive fishing in the territory as he said the fishermen were able to harvest tons of fish when the barriers were removed.

He also said the fishermen were able to catch around 164 tons of fish on the day that the PCG had removed the floating barriers.

“‘Yun ang nawawala sa ating mga fisherman. Kaya’t hindi naman maaari na lalagyan ng barrier na ganun at maliwanag naman na nasa loob ng Pilipinas ‘yan… Hindi tayo naghahanap ng gulo. Basta’t gagawin natin, patuloy natin ipapagtanggol ang Pilipinas, ang maritime territory ng Pilipinas, ang karapatan ng mga fisherman natin na mangisda doon sa mga areas kung saan na sila nangingisda daan-daang taon na kaya’t hindi ko maintindihan ba’t nagbago na ganito,” Marcos said.

Marcos said that the Philippine government would not stop protecting the welfare of Filipino fishermen and fighting for its territorial rights on the West Philippine Sea not by force, but by legal remedies through diplomatic process.

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