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Katipunan descendants align with fisherfolk leaders

On April 30, direct descendants of Katipunan heroes who fought and died for our sovereignty against Spain supported fisherfolk leaders. This they did with a carefully crafted position paper they sent to the President.

Dinna Umengan, the elected chair of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Banner Program of the legislated Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, is grateful for this position and completely agrees with it. She is also the executive director of Tambuyog Development Foundation (TDF). Since its founding in 1984, TDF has been calling for “attention to our declining fishery resources.”

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Today, we do not have enough fish to feed our people. We are only 89 percent self-sufficient. If we lose control of the West Philippine Sea, we will lose another 7 percent of our already limited fish catch.

This should not be allowed, given our very serious hunger situation. According to a Social Weather Stations survey, there were 4 million families hungry in November 2020, double the prepandemic level of 2.1million in December 2019. Because of the ongoing COVID problem, it is even worse today. We cannot allow the illegal Chinese incursion into our territorial waters to further exacerbate our hunger situation.

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Former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director and Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez said the 237 illegal Chinese vessels were harvesting at least P720 million a month. Villardo Abuene, Homonhon Environment Rescue Organization president, said: “The Chinese fishermen have been overfishing, depleting our marine resources. Our fishermen have been driven away by Chinese coast guards and fishing vessels. This is actually worse than invasion. Our fishermen are starving. They face hunger because of the Chinese.”

Umengan supports the position of the five-coalition Agrifisheries Alliance (AFA) submitted to the President on April 24 protesting the Chinese ships’ “illegal and threatening presence” in the West Philippine Sea. The AFA position based its case on defending three cherished principles: sovereignty, food security and livelihood. In addition, Umengan has signed the following statement submitted on April 30 to the President:

“We are Filipinos, whose identity has been defined and shaped not only by our history and culture, but also by the length and breadth of our territory and by the natural beauty and resources within such possessions. Our land and waters are our lifeblood.

“We are protesting the continuous and progressive occupation in the West Philippine Sea by China of our precious reef, being converted into islands and fortresses, and of the surrounding seas, all of which are within our exclusive economic zone. We are protesting this violative intrusion by China into our territorial integrity.

“Our claims to these reefs and waters are not only based on historical facts and precedents, but also supported by international and legal jurisprudence. The Chinese on the other hand, have absolutely no basis. They use armed might and force to get their way.

“Our forebears fought and died for freedom and control of our land and seas. Let their sacrifices not go down in vain. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less than to reap the fruits of such national possessions. We will all be guilty of gross negligence and breach of trust if we do not speak out at this time against this blatant attack on our nation’s sovereignty.

“We stand before China, head up high and unbowed, ready to give it all for our beloved Philippines.”

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The above position was formulated by direct descendants of Katipunan leaders with their alumni classmates from Ateneo de Manila University Grade School ’61, High School ’65 and College ’69 (ADMU616569). Among their great-grandfathers were Pedro Paterno, prime minister of the Malolos Congress after Apolinario Mabini; Gen. Miguel Malvar, President of the First Philippine Republic after Emilio Aguinaldo was captured, and the last general to surrender to the Americans; Pedro Casimiro, a Katipunan treasurer who was jailed with Juan Luna and narrowly escaped death; Andres Agcaoili, a Katipunero who was at Bagumbayan when Jose Rizal was executed; and active combatants like Gen. Juan Araneta, Gen. Servillano Aquino and Capt. Leon Mercado.

On April 30, with the position stated above, these Katipunan descendants wrote the Office of the President: “We hope and pray that President Duterte can find a way of helping our people in this very sensitive and difficult matter.”

On March 3, the President said to the Chinese: “Just leave the fishermen alone because they have to eat.”

Amid this intense and emotionally charged controversy, we hope these valid arguments generate more light than heat. We look forward to Mr. Duterte’s statement on May 3 defending our fishermen as an indication of his winning back our sovereignty, the same way our Katipunan heroes did.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential programs and projects and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

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TAGS: fisherfolk, Katipunan heroes
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