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West Philippine Sea, integral to food, national security

MAASIN CITY (PIA) -- The stakes at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) are so high because these are essentially connected with the country’s food security, which, in turn, is basically related to national security.

“The West Philippine Sea is integral to our food security.  Alam nyo naman, pagka shortage ng bigas, apektado lahat. So pagka nagka-shortage na tayo ng isda, at sa ngayon ang labanan sa isda mabigat,” said National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, during a press conference on Monday, February 12, held in San Juan, La Union.

(The West Philippine Sea is integral to our food security. If there's a rice shortage, everything will be affected. Similarly, if there's a scarcity of fish, and now fishing becomes more challenging.)

PIA Deputy Director General Ares Gutierrez (left) delivered his opening statement before the start of question and answer session of the press conference. Other guests representing the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea were National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya; Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard; and Atty. Fretti Ganchoon, Senior State Counsel of the Department of Justice.  (Photo grabbed from PIA Region 1 live FB feed)

“Pag wala ng makain ang inyong mga kababayan, that can create problems for the country. That is an issue of national security. So, sa usapin pa lang ng pagkain apektado tayo lahat, whether sa Ifugao ka man, sa Kalinga, o … saan ka kukuha ng isda, anong ipapakain mo sa iyong mga tao kung hindi natin makukuha sa ating bansa,” Malaya added.

(If our people lack food to eat, it can pose significant problems for the country. This becomes an issue of national security. Therefore, discussions about food impact all of us, regardless of whether you reside in Ifugao or Kalinga. Where will you obtain the fish? What will we feed our people if we cannot source it domestically?) 

Malaya compared the West Philippine Sea issue to the basic feeling of hunger and concerns about national security when asked how people in areas not directly affected can help. Since these places are far from the center of the dispute, the significance of the West Philippine Sea might not be fully understood, and there could be misconceptions about it.

Ares Gutierrez, Assistant Secretary and Deputy Director-General of the Philippine Information Agency explained that the West Philippine Sea issue is for the Filipino nation to comprehend, not a particular concern for Cebuano, Ilokano, and other groups but a whole-of-nation concern that merits a whole-of-nation approach.

“Ang isyu kasi ng West Philippine Sea ... isyu ba ito ng taga-Palawan, isyu ba ito ng taga-Zambales. Ito’y isyu nating Pilipino, sa sambayanang Pilipino, kaya ang pag-uusap natin tungkol sa isyu hindi tayo nag-uusap bilang Ilokano, bilang Bisaya, bilang Bikolano.  Nag-uusap tayo bilang Pilipino. Kaya lahat tayo ay meron tayong stake dito sa isyu na ito, dito sa usapin ng WPS. At iyon ang nais nating ipaliwanag sa ating mga kababayan,”  Gutierrez clarified, in response to the question.

(The West Philippine Sea issue concerns not only people in Palawan or Zambales but all Filipinos. Regardless of our regional backgrounds—whether Ilokano, Bisaya, or Bikolano—we must address this issue as one Filipino community. We all have a stake in the West Philippine Sea matter, and that's what we aim to explain to our fellow countrymen.)

Besides citing the Philippine-owned territory as an integrated part of the nation’s food chain through its bounty of the sea at present, Malaya declared that the WPS also possessed the potential to change the Filipinos’ lives in the future, which is the future of the country as well, with full development of its still untapped resources.

“We must harness our resources for the benefit of the Filipino people. That is number one. The number two issue why this is critical for everyone is sa tingin ko nandiyan yung game changer sa ating ekonomiya (the game changer for our economy lies there). The WPS has the potential to change our lives. Tingin ko, I think sigurado tayo, maraming oil dyan,”  (The way I see it, there are likely plenty of oil deposits there),” Malaya said.

“So hindi tayo masyado makagalaw ngayon, pero it’s critical for our future as a country. Sa ngayon, it’s food security, in the future it could be the future of our country. If we can start exploring the resources there, that has an impact on the future generation of Filipinos,”  he added.

(So, we might not be able to take much action now, but it's critical for our country's future. Currently, it's about food security, but in the future, it could determine the fate of our nation. If we begin exploring the resources there, it will have an impact on future generations of Filipinos.)

Other guests at the press conference were Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard, and Atty. Fretti Ganchoon, senior state counsel of the Department of Justice.

It was the first in a series of regional transparency press conferences in efforts to present to the grassroots communities what really is happening at the WPS, with continued harassment and aggressive behavior from China. (MMP/PIA Southern Leyte)

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Marcelo Pedalino

Regional Editor

Region 8

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