Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, now seeking his fifth term in the Senate under the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino party, ended his three-day sortie in Bicol for the May 13 elections on a high note.
Enrile met with the political leaders of the vote-rich provinces of the region, starting in Sorsogon on Saturday, Camarines Sur on Monday, and Albay on Tuesday.
“Marhay na aldaw saindo gabos (Good morning to all),” he told crowds of well-wishers along his motorcade route as he made the rounds in the region.
While meeting locals, Enrile addressed the concerns of the local fishing industry, underscoring the need to curb illegal fishing.
“We need to protect the Bicol waters, particularly the Burias-Ticao Pass, which is considered one of the most productive fishing grounds in the country,” the veteran lawmaker urged.
“The government should come in to improve sustainable fishing in the region. If we care for the richness of biodiversity in the region, we are helping fishermen who are harvesting legally and responsibly, and we are also providing more attractions in the tourism industry,” he added.
Leaders in Bicol’s fishing industry need to be taught to practice sustainable fishing so they can protect their available supply in the long term, the former Senate president said.
“We also need to enforce stricter patrolling and monitoring of illegal and unregulated fishing in the area,” Enrile said.
Asked about the plight of fishermen allegedly being driven away by Chinese vessels in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island near Palawan, Enrile urged government to first look into the reports.
“Once these reports are officially verified, we must resolve the issue through diplomacy,” he said.
“We have to deal with China this way because we do not have any force to challenge China. This is why I’m advocating a closer relationship with China,” said Enrile, who had served as Minister of Defense under the Marcos administration.
He also expressed concern that left unresolved, the possible intervention of Chinese vessels in the fishing grounds will deplete the supply in the areas even up to Bicol.