A PHILIPPINE congressman has filed a bill that seeks to set up fishing shelters in the South China Sea amid worsening tensions with China.

The shelters will protect Filipino fishermen from foreign military harassment and during emergencies, according to House Bill 9011 filed by Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee. These will also be areas where they can rest, access gear, supplies and communication lines.

“The presence of Chinese vessels has made it difficult for Filipino fishermen to access their traditional fishing grounds, which greatly affected their livelihoods and our country’s food security,” he said in the bill’s explanatory note.

Under the proposed law, fishing shelters or ports will be built at nine maritime spots within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone including Lawak Island (Nanshan Island), Kota Island, West York Island, Thitu Island and Lankiam Cay.

Fishing ports will also be built at the Northeast Cay, Flat Island, Commodore Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.

Under the House bill, a fishing port will also be built at Benham Rise, which is east of northern Philippines and is said to be rich in marine species and untapped mineral resources and gas deposits.

The Defense department, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and other agencies will set up fishing shelters.

“Seven years have passed since the unanimous ruling in The Hague over the West Philippine Sea [but] fishermen are still on guard to avoid being harassed by Chinese militia,” Mr. Lee said. “Fishermen are still anxious about their safety despite the government’s increased presence in the area.”

China claims more than 80% of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain massive oil and gas deposits and through which billions of dollars in trade passes each year.

It has ignored the 2016 ruling by the United Nations-backed arbitration court that voided its claim based on a 1940s map.

The Philippines has been unable to enforce the ruling and has since filed hundreds of protests over what it calls encroachment and harassment by China’s coast guard and its vast fishing fleet.

The Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday evening completed a resupply mission to deliver food and other supplies to Filipino troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, which the Philippines calls Ayungin, despite attempts by Chinese vessels to block the boats.

On Oct. 1, three Filipino fishermen died after a foreign oil tanker rammed into their fishing boat near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) told senators on Wednesday it would finish mapping Philippine territories in the South China Sea by 2028.

The Philippines’ exclusive economic zone covers 1.657 million square kilometers, NAMRIA administrator Peter N. Tiangco told a hearing. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz