Home News Philippine official lauds Catholic bishops’ stance against China’s aggression

Philippine official lauds Catholic bishops’ stance against China’s aggression

Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for the West Philippine Sea (WPS), praised some Catholic bishops for their outspoken stance against China’s actions.

“When I heard that bishops are supporting the advocacy of our government in our position in the West Philippine Sea, my regard for the Catholic Church was reinvigorated,” said Tarriela. 

The Coast Guard official made the statement during a radio program hosted by Jose A. Torres, the Director General of the Philippine Information Agency, on April 3. 

Tarriela shared that he grew up with the impression that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is “very supportive of the social issues in our country”. 

“Unfortunately, I’ve noticed in recent times that the CBCP seems to have quieted down, not having as strong a voice in political or social issues that could help advance the rights of every Filipino,” he said.

In February, Catholic dioceses in areas near the West Philippine Sea issued a joint pastoral exhortation expressing profound distress over the aggressive incursions by Chinese forces into the country’s maritime zones.

The exhortation, dated February 8, 2024, coinciding with the Memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, urged the faithful “to recognize the Lord in the concern of the Church for the well-being of our poor fisher folk”.

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It was signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Taytay, Bishop Bartolome Santos Jr. of Iba, Bishop Daniel Presto of San Fernando de La Union, Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa, and Auxiliary Bishop Fidelis Layog of Lingayen-Dagupan.

The bishops lambasted Beijing’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea “resulting in the widespread destruction” of marine biodiversity.

“It is not only an issue about fish and aquatic resources but about the lives, the well-being, and the future of one of the marginal but populous sectors of our society – the fisherfolk,” the pastoral statement reads.

The bishops criticized the “policy of appeasing Chinese aggressors”, stating that it has worsened the plight of the Filipino fisherfolk and emboldened China to make unfounded claims in the disputed waters.

While advocating for a peaceful resolution, the bishops asserted that legal means must be exhausted to defend the Philippines’ rights over its maritime territories.

Recently, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has initiated measures to enhance the Philippines’ maritime security in response to recent hostile actions by China towards Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

He issued Executive Order (EO) No. 57, aimed at reinforcing the nation’s maritime security and awareness of its maritime domain. This includes the establishment of the National Maritime Council.

“In our efforts to maintain stability and security within our maritime territories, we face numerous significant challenges. These challenges endanger not just our territorial sovereignty but also the peaceful livelihood of our citizens. They threaten the fundamental rights of Filipinos to live in peace and freedom, without the fear of violence or external threats,” said Marcos. 

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