Search for the missing fishermen sought; fishers group blames Chinese control of Panatag Shoal

Search for the missing fishermen sought; fishers group blames Chinese control of Panatag Shoal

Manila, Philippines — A group of fisherfolk on Thursday urged the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to expedite the search and rescue operations for the remaining 13 Filipino fishermen who went missing after their boat was hit and sank by the strong waves caused by typhoon Quiel last November 7. At present, only one fisherman, identified as Angelito Epetito Jr, was rescued by another fishing vessel past midnight on Friday, November 8.

The victims’ fishing vessel FFB Three Sister went missing in the waters of Scarborough Shoal, on their way to homeport at Brgy. Sisiman, Mariveles town in Bataan province.

In a statement, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) National Chairperson Fernando Hicap said the PCG must priority above all, the search of the missing fishermen.

“Authorities must expedite their search and rescue operations to find the missing fishermen for them to return to their families,” he said.

The group also demanded the government to provide aid to the families of the missing fishermen as they are left with no household incomes due to the incident.

“We demand the government to provide relief for the victims’ families, as the fate of their loved ones are still uncertain,” the fisherfolk leader said.

He added that Scarborough Shoal could have offered safety for the fishermen victims.

“The victims could have optioned to seek refuge at the lagoon if not for the presence of Chinese vessels,” Hicap asserted.

Scarborough Shoal was the traditional safe harbor for Filipino fishermen due to its calm condition amid turbulent weather. This was a major reason Zambales fishermen braved the water cannon assault of Chinese coast guard in March 2014. As of end of October, it was occupied by at least four Chinese vessels, as reported by the oil tanker Green Aura, which was warned to keep 10-nautical miles away from Scarborough Shoal.

“Chinese control of Scarborough Shoal is a strategic loss to Filipino fishermen, and now it spells disaster for those caught by big waves,” he claimed.

Ultimately, the group demanded the Duterte government to retake control of the shoal in the name of national sovereignty, aside from the advantage it offers to fishermen. ###

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