I WON second prize in a global essay writing contest on the West Philippine Sea sponsored by the US Pinoys on Good Governance early this year. I am asking you to please give me a little of your valuable time to read on this very pressing issue in our society. In order to tell you why we must care whether Panatag Shoal will be stolen from us or not, here are snippets from my essay titled “Liberating the Kalayaan Sea”:

My father is a native of Masinloc, Zambales and every year, our family spends a few weeks of vacation in his hometown. This would always be highlighted by his memorable rendezvous with the said rich marine habitat, where his uncles and cousins would bring him along as a boy to fish. However, last year, my dad was not able to visit “his” Panatag Shoal. Not by his own choice, but by an adverse restraint. Chinese battle ships and gunboats have sealed Scarborough Shoal, claiming it as their territory. They have roped off the area prohibiting fishermen or any Philippine vessel from entering. For several years, my father had visited the place without securing a Chinese visa. All of a sudden, China would bring their naval might into it to drive our fishermen away.

The Panatag Shoal is just part of a vast waterbed consisting of groups of small rocks with reefs. However, this entire West Philippine Sea which, aside from being a strategic waterway also holds more than 213 billion barrels of oil, estimated to be equivalent to around 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserve. The crude oil these small islands contain may amount to more than P400 trillion and can pay the entire Philippines’ external debt, put to school each of the 6.24 million out-of-school youths in the country, and provide three meals, with soup and dessert, each day for a lifetime to Filipinos, most of whom are living in poverty with a meager P52 household budget.

Sari-saring kuwentong tahanan

Literally, the West Philippine Sea, if nurtured and cultivated properly and efficiently, can catapult this third world country of ours into first world economy.

First, continuously calling these waters with our own nationally and historically designated names bolsters our claim in no uncertain terms. Second, as a fast-paced generation in touch with the latest gadgets and technology, we can share a little of our time in liking Facebook groups and pages that advocate our country’s claim on the West Philippine Sea, tweet at least once a week our disagreement with the claim of China, and post Facebook status that will awaken our friends on how important it is for us to liberate the islands that another nation has virtually invaded.

It may still be a long fight. We may not witness the reclaiming of a patrimony that is undoubtedly ours. But we should at least be the ones to initiate all efforts in claiming our territory.

Certainly, the time to act has come.


I would like to thank my parents, Gerard Estella and Rotary Club of Makati IPP Vickie Estella, for being the coolest parents I can ever have. I would also like to thank my Aunt Rosafe Salmin and my grandmother, Nenita Salmin, for everything they have done for me.

I would like to say sorry to my siblings for I am the favorite child and all of you are probably adopted. And I love you very much.

Thank you to my bosses in the Daily Manila Shimbun, Sir Sakai and Sir Iggy, for giving me such a lax time today that I was able to write this column.

Makabagong pagtuturo tampok sa bagong e-LeAP

Thank you SBFF Kim, Arra, Lorenz, Nicole, Diane, Bryan and Risnie for good times. Thank you to my newfound friends: Jam, Jason, Kaye, Marj, Meryl, etc. Thank you fellow Varsitarian staffers for teaching me the sense of responsibility. Thank you 4JRN1 for teaching me how to be this open-minded.

I am leaving you the Witness team, my trusted writers Poleng and Gelyn. Though ours is a religious section, you will experience extreme violence if you will not take good care of it.

Thank you, my better half. Never mind Callie and Arizona, we’ll make a much better love story.

Lastly and most importantly, thank you, my omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God.


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