Seized-Chinese dredger should be punished to the full force of the law – fishers’ group
Manila, Philippines – The Chinese dredger apprehended by the Philippine authorities should be punished to the “fullest extent of the law”, according to a group of small fisherfolk on Sunday.
In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said that the MV Zhonhai 68, a Chinese dredging vessel seized by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) off the waters of Bataan Province last Wednesday, was not the only dredging vessel operating in the Philippine waters.
Last year, PAMALAKAYA said, MV Zhong Hai 69 Alfa (ZH 69), ran aground off the coast of Botolan, Zambales, causing the catch of small fishers in the province to decrease due to its presence. The ship was carrying and transporting dredged materials from Bucao River to Botolan’s neighboring coastal town Cabangan, Zambales.
“This was not the first time, and definitely not the only Chinese dredging vessel to operate in our coastal waters. Local fishers have been lamenting the decrease of fish catch due to rampant dredging operations in the provinces of Zambales and Bataan. This operation harms the marine life through excavation of seabed and movement of solid particles, noise pollution, and blurring of water that drive away the fish,” Bobby Roldan, PAMALAKAYA Vice Chair for Luzon said in a statement sent to media outfits.
Roldan, a resident fisherman in Bataan, said that the province’s fishing grounds used to be abundant of fish and other marine resources, and also serve as alternative fishing grounds of Filipino fishers who are unable to go farther due to presence of Chinese vessels and militias in the Beijing-claimed Scarborough Shoal (local known as Bajo de Masinloc).
The Central Luzon-based fisherfolk leader said that the illegal presence and operations of the recently-seized Chinese dredger is a “highest violation” of our national territory and patrimony.
“Iligal na nga ang pagpasok sa ating teritoryo, nandadambong pa ng ating likas-yaman. Pero sila pa ang may ganang magpasa ng batas laban sa ituturing nilang dayuhan sa inaangking teritoryo sa West Philippine Sea,” Roldan said, referring to the recently-enacted Coast Guard Law which empowers Chinese Coast Guard to fire at non-Chinese vessels entering Beijing-claimed marine waters in the South China Sea, including 80% of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Lastly, PAMALAKAYA demanded the Philippine authorities to stop, seize, and punish every Chinese dredging vessels operating in the Philippine waters.
“There is a clear and present threat to our sovereignty, marine environment, and socio-economic rights of Filipino fishers. Authorities, especially the armed forces, are supposed to be keeping watch and guarding our national sovereignty, not busying itself with senseless red-tagging and anti-insurgency operations against civilians and activists in urban areas,” ended Roldan. ###