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DND rules out shooting war in Panatag

MANILA, Philippines - The standoff at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is more of a maritime and environment concern that can be resolved through diplomatic measures, not by a shooting war, a top defense official said yesterday.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Peter Galvez said war is not among the options considered by the government.

“War is not the answer (to the) issue we are now facing,” Galvez said at a news forum at the Rembrandt Hotel in Quezon City.

Galvez said “anything to do with Panatag will be addressed” by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is taking the diplomatic initiative to resolve the issue, not by the DND. The Philippine Coast Guard is the main agency tasked to enforce maritime law, he added.

Galvez also conceded the DND cannot afford to enter into a shooting war to defend Panatag Shoal since it is not among its pressing priorities.

“Hard power is never the way of addressing an issue,” Galvez said.

President Aquino, on the other hand, has ordered the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to provide assistance to the fishermen who would be affected by the fishing ban imposed within Panatag Shoal area to ensure that they would not lose their livelihood, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

The Philippines imposed a fishing ban within Panatag Shoal area to allow marine resources to recover.

“President Aquino instructed the BFAR to provide alternatives for the affected fishermen. 

The BFAR has installed 10 fish aggregating devices or those known as payao. These payaos are situated within 15 kilometers off the coastline, compared to the shoal which is 125 nautical miles or 250 kilometers from the coastline, and can accommodate 30 to 40 fishers,” Valte said.
 
“Another 20 units will be installed in the next two weeks and BFAR is targeting a total of 160 units by June. In addition, the BFAR will also be providing alternative livelihood such as mangrove projects to assist the affected fishermen,” she said.

Panatag Shoal is actually too far from the shore, Malacañang pointed out, and some vital marine resources like the coral beds must be protected.

Valte also said the exporters of Philippine fruits to China would be assisted by concerned departments and agencies to prevent further losses.

China, on the other hand, enforced new and stricter regulations and returned the bananas, papayas and pineapples to Philippine exporters amid the escalation of tension over Panatag Shoal.

It was clarified, however, that the problem on Philippine fruit exports had started a month before the Panatag Shoal incident.

Valte said the government is looking for other markets for affected fruit exporters while the phytosanitary and regulatory issues were being threshed out by the Department of Agriculture team that would go to China.

“We’re trying to diversify markets as the President did say.... But maybe...what you have in mind is short-term assistance,” Valte said.

She said the government is looking for ways to address the concerns of the exporters and assist them as they incurred losses.

Valte added the fishermen could go to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to see what assistance could be given to them.

Valte, however, could not comment if the government could provide subsidy to the fruit exporters or those covered by the fishing ban.

“The subsidy, that I will have to ask,” she said. 


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Perseus Echeminada | The Philippine Star | May 20, 2012 | Article Link

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