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Special Features | National

How to deal with Chinese bullying at WPS? Modernize not only navy but also fishing - Shahani

Former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani. FACEBOOK PAGE
The online news portal of TV5

CANDELARIA, Zambales - Former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani has presented a new viewpoint – and possible long-term solutions -- to the West Philippine Sea debacle.

Describing the country’s fishing industry as very primitive and our army as too weak, Shahani, also a former Philippine ambassador, urged the government to pursue an independent foreign policy and to modernize the fishing industry to correct the malady.

Speaking exclusively with after conducting a fact-finding mission in four coastal towns of Zambales to look at how the Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea affects the fisherfolk, Shahani said that one important observation that she found is that the fishing industry in the country is very primitive.

“The problems that we saw are not only the Chinese aggression but also the fishing industry, not just in Zambales but also in Pangasinan, is very primitive,” the former legislator said.

 “The gears, the equipment, compared to those of Japan, China, and America are very primitive here. They have not really tried to modernize it,” Shahani, who hails from Pangasinan, said.

“I know because I live in Urdaneta and we have a big fish market there, but it not even refrigerated, it is smelly, there is no desire to upgrade the presentation of fish, and yet we have some high-value fish there,” she said.

Effects of a primitive fishing industry

 “So in addition to the problems of Chinese incursions in the Scarborough Shoal, there is really very limited income for our fisherfolk. There is not much enterprise or progress in the fishing industry and yet that is our main resource as the country is an archipelago with a coastline longer than that of America,” she complained.

“There is no future in being a fisherman. Even the families, they do not like their children to grow up and fish, they don’t like to get married to fishermen. It’s very right because they don’t know when their husband will come home,” Shahani said, describing the life of fishermen.

“They have not much expectation in life. That’s terrible because they are our main resources in catching treasures from the sea, but we do not train them. Tesda has no fishing courses, I don’t see any advanced fishing school here in the country. At least I think Pangasinan should have one,” she suggested.

Shahani said neighboring countries, unlike the Philippines, have developed their fishing industry and their military, and so they are more capable of dealing with the Chinese bullying in the West Philippine Sea.

“We’re really in water country and this is my theory: Since we’re colonized by America, it wanted to sell us the cars, so we forgot to develop our boats, our ships, our waterways. We really thought we were living in continent, with all these cars, but we should really develop our waterways. Why can we not travel from Ilocos to Pangasinan in a boat? Why do we always have to pick McArthur Highway? It is only two lanes anyway,” Shahani said.

“And then to be caught in the traffic, especially in EDSA, in a car… oh, that is now Japanese-American commerce (for you).”

“So, we really forgot our heritage,” she stressed.

While our military has also remained weak, Shahani said that “Vietnam has been exchanging space programs with Russia, and now they are also doing this with America.”

Another member of the fact-finding mission, former Gabriela Partylist Representative, Liza Maza agreed with Shahani, saying that Vietnam has really developed its military capability after the war with America and has gained enough confidence in dealing with external aggression.

“Our people are brave. Look at how we defended Bataan and Corrigedor?” Shahani said of our forefathers. “But when the Chinese submarines come, what do we do? Maybe, well, meet them with a motorized banca, because that’s all we have.”

“It is about time we also become more sophisticated in this area and get out of the American umbrella,” the former diplomat said. “We should have an independent foreign policy,” she urged.