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Release of 22 Chinese Fishermen Meant to Appease China, Fishers’ Group Says

by Pesante-USA Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2008 at 6:00 AM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations) said on March 15 that the dismissal of the case against and the subsequent release of 22 Chinese fishermen last March 14 was meant to appease the Chinese government currently irked over the scandal and diplomatic repercussions created by the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

Release of 22 Chinese Fishermen Meant to Appease China, Fishers’ Group Says

Los Angeles--- The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations) said on March 15 that the dismissal of the case against and the subsequent release of 22 Chinese fishermen last March 14 was meant to appease the Chinese government currently irked over the scandal and diplomatic repercussions created by the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations) said on March 15 that the dismissal of the case against and the subsequent release of 22 Chinese fishermen last March 14 was meant to appease the Chinese government currently irked over the scandal and diplomatic repercussions created by the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

“We see this as a diplomatic goodwill measure of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Chinese government currently dismayed with the government’s handling of the RP-China offshore mining deal in the Spratlys. It is like the Philippine President saying to the Chinese bureaucrat-capitalists, ‘Don’t worry, we are in control of the situation and you will get what you want in exchange for that -billion loan to my presidency,’” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement emailed to Bulatlat.

The special court handling the environmental cases in Palawan dismissed the cases against the suspected Chinese poachers who were arrested in 2006 near Balacbac islands some 270 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa City.

Palawan Regional Trial Court Branch 52 Judge Toribio Ilao ruled in favor of the 22 Chinese fishermen, who asserted that they were already outside the country’s territorial waters and inside Malaysia off Manganese Island when Philippine authorities arrested them in October 2006.

“ billion is billion. It is a huge fortune that would last for a lifetime. The corrupt and bankrupt presidency of Mrs. Arroyo will practically do everything, anything to keep that fortune at the expense of truth, justice and accountability,” Pamalakaya’s Hicap added.

“The release of 22 Chinese poachers is part of that immoral confidence building on the part of the Philippine government to indicate that it is willing to push through its partnership in crime with China,” he added.

In his ruling, Judge Ilao said the prosecution witnesses has provided inconsistent testimonies to establish that the Chinese were actually fishing near Manganese Island, Palawan’s southernmost tip. He rejected the prosecution’s position that the arrest was valid since it was done during a hot pursuit operation. The prosecution maintained that the 22 Chinese poachers violated Sections 87 and 88 of the Fisheries Code of 1998.

Since the decision was issued on Friday, the prosecution was not given an opportunity to contest the decision of the Palawan RTC – which might result in the immediate release of the 22 Chinese poachers.

Not April 28

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya asked Senate President Manuel Villar to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole to undertake the investigation on the JMSU. The militant group said the proposal of Sen.Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, that she handles or leads the investigation will not suffice since the issue involves a lot of concerns like foreign relations, constitutional issues and graft and corruption especially since the deal was tied up to an -billion dollar loan from China meant to fund equally scandalous projects like the ZTE broadband deal.

Pamalakaya also said the Senate convening itself as a whole should schedule the hearings on the Spratly Islands deal right after the Holy Week break and not April 28 as suggested by Santiago.

“Why April 28? The outraged public cannot wait for April 28. This is a matter of life and death, and such delay is not acceptable. Let the Spratly investigation begin right after the Holy Week break,” the group said.

Pamalakaya also express doubts on Santiago’s credibility in leading the investigation, adding that aside from being a “certified puppet” of the Arroyo presidency she is known for compromising Philippine sovereignty to favor any foreign power as indicated by her position on the equally controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA.

“This self-proclaimed expert on international law should not be trusted by any decent thinking and patriotic Filipino. She is a champion of political mediocrity in the country,” the militant group said.

Diplomatic protest

The other week, Pamalakaya filed a 7-page diplomatic protest at the Consular office of the Chinese Embassy in Makati City.

“It seems to us that the Chinese government and its client monopolies in and out of China who want their capital to accumulate in accelerating proportions have seen a goldmine in President Arroyo’s uncontrollable greed, and are using this kind of rotten statesmanship and governance to further their economic and financial agenda in the Philippines,” the group said in their diplomatic protest.

Pamalakaya stated that the JMSU, which allows Chinese oil corporations to undertake offshore mining in Philippine claimed territories in the Spratlys, is a gross violation of our people’s sovereign rights and the country’s national patrimony.

The group likened the joint agreement to aggression and plunder by a foreign power against a nation of people fighting against any form of foreign invasion and exploitation, whether it is political, military or economic as in the case of the RP-China Spratly deal on offshore mining.

Pamalakaya said the country’s claimed territories in the Spratly are part of the Philippines’ defined territorial waters according to the 1987 Constitution and as set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They said the territories “belong to the Filipino people, and not to the “Arroyo ruling syndicate in Malacañang, and definitely not to the Chinese government and their corporate clients.”

The group asserted that these territories, which China intends to explore for offshore mining activities are the breeding and spawning grounds of Philippine tuna and other marine species. “These territories also provide passage for the entry and migration of migratory stocks in the Pacific Ocean. By nature and by design, our claimed territorial waters are part of the country’s EEZ,” Pamalakaya said.

Release timed for arrival of Chinese officials?

Pamalakaya also expressed suspicion that the Palawan RTC’s decision was timed for the surprise visit of top Chinese government officials the other week. The Chinese officials were here the other week on what critics called a highly questionable diplomatic mission.

“This tin-cup diplomacy further degenerates the country’s political and moral standing in the international community because of Malacañang’s political flirtation with China’s billion dollar bribers,” Pamalakaya said.

“Are they here to ensure the release of 22 Chinese poachers? Are they here to clinch the second phase of JMSU? The move of Beijing is not only undiplomatic. It is actually foreign intervention authored and executed by the ruling capitalist railroaders and bureaucrat capitalists in China who passed themselves off as communists. They are not communists because these are not the works of communists. The truth is these Beijing top guns are top money makers and exploiters based in Beijing, nothing more, nothing less,” the group said.

Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco on March 14 said Beijing’s apparent influence on the continued delay of the House of Representatives final approval of the bill defining the country’s boundaries was obvious. In a news forum, Cuenco – chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs said Chinese Charge d’Affaires Deng Xijun met with him in January to express China’s disagreement over the approval of House Bill No. 3216, which seeks to delineate the territorial boundaries of the Philippines.

The Cebu lawmaker said he received from the Philippine Embassy in China a copy of a letter from the Chinese government dated December 2007. In the document, Beijing made reference to the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among the Philippines, China and Vietnam, saying the proposed RP territory bill would affect the bilateral agreement involving joint exploration project in the disputed Spratly.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap believed Malacañang had a hand in the delay in the passage of the HB 3216. Arroyo, he said, wants first to eliminate controversial provisions in the bill that would displease China and that would affect the implementation of the JMSU.

“The rubber stamp Congress under the leadership of House Speaker Prospero Nograles will water down HB 3216 to please China, and to make sure that the new bill will not run contrary to JMSU. We are talking here of -billion loan from China that promises huge kickbacks and fat commissions to Arroyo and company and this explains the current behavior of Malacañang and the congressmen loyal to President Arroyo,” Hicap added.

Pamalakaya said: “Beijing will tolerate the uncontrollable greed of President Arroyo because their corporate giants see huge return in investment which is 10 times up to 100 times bigger than their corporate funding for corruption.” Contributed to Bulatlat

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