Manila, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission that his remark on Scarborough Shoal maybe a joke to him, but is a matter of fishing rights for Filipino fishers who are forced to abandon their traditional fishing grounds due to continued Chinese presence, according to the militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) on Wednesday.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA said most of the Filipino fishermen who used to frequent Scarborough Shoal (locally known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc), are now unable to return to traditional fishing grounds in fear of being harassed or driven away by Chinese vessels permanently stationed in the area.
The lagoon, according to Roldan, used to serve as a “safe harbor” for Filipino fishers as it provides shelter from strong waves during turbulent weather.
Bobby Roldan, PAMALAKAYA Vice Chair for Luzon and a fisherman in Zambales province lamented how two Chinese vessels seem to be guarding the passage entry of the lagoon inside Scarborough Shoal.
“The lagoon inside Panatag Shoal provides us shelter from the storm. Aside from being a safe haven, it provides us abundant marine species that we could take back home after weeks of taking sanctuary,” Bobby Roldan said in a statement.
“But since China intensified its control over our exclusive economic zone, we have practically lost Panatag Shoal as well, and other traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea,” Roldan lamented.
For his part, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson Fernando Hicap called Duterte “traitor and scammer” over his remark.
“All in the name of his political ambition. Face to face, he deceived a fisherman who was crying for help to the next leader of the country. We are appalled by how Mr. Duterte has been taking a very serious matter involving our national sovereignty a joke. The Filipino fishers have already lost trust on him, thus he should bid goodbye to any illusions of his anointed minions winning next year’s elections,” Hicap, also former Anakpawis Party-list solon ended. ###