Manila, Philippines – It has been estimated that a Filipino fisherman in Zambales province has been losing about 70% of its income per fishing trip since last year as their traditional fishing grounds narrow due to intensified presence of Chinese personnel in the Panatag Shoal (internationally known as Scarborough Shoal), according to the militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA).
In a recent consultation with its coordinators operating in coastal areas covering the West Philippine Sea, PAMALAKAYA Vice Chair for Luzon Bobby Roldan reported that the average income of a small fisherman dropped from an average of P1, 000 to a measly P300 per fishing trip since last year.
“Hindi na kasi kami makalapit para mangisda sa bandang Panatag Shoal, kaya nagsisiksikan kami sa loob ng 15-kilometer municipal waters hanggang sa pinakamalayong 60 kilometro mula sa baybayin kung saan mas kakaunti ang nahuhuling isda,” Roldan, a fisherman in Botolan, Zambales said.
The Central Luzon-based fisherfolk leader reiterated that they are unable to return to Panatag Shoal, a feature located 124-nautical mile away from the mainland Zambales, in fear of being harassed or aggressively driven away by Chinese vessels permanently patrolling in the area.
Roldan lamented that the income drop is only enough to replace the cost of production such as fuel and ice.
“Palit-krudo at palit-yelo na lang ang katumbas ng kinikita naming sa kada palaot. Sa pinakamalala, kulang pa kaya tiyak na mababaon sa utang ang mga mangingisda,” Roldan said.
Roldan added that small fishers who used to voyage in group in Panatag Shoal are swarming in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing grounds which happen to be invaded with local commercial fishing vessels which overwhelm their traditional and backward fishing technology and gears.
“Mga dambuhalang barko na ng China ang bumubungad sa amin sa Panatag Shoal, malalaking commercial fishing vessels naman ang sasalubong sa amin kapag natulak kami pabalik ng municipal waters. Dapat sana ay hikayatin at pondohan ng pamahalaan ang mga malalaki nating fishing operators na sa West Philippine Sea maglayag para mamaksimisa ang ating rekurso na unti-unti nang inuubos ng China,” Roldan said, reiterating his group’s demand for a “state-sponsored” fishing expedition in the West Philippine Sea to utilize the fishery and marine resources.
For his part, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list said that the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) did not stop China from its annexation and expansionism activities in the South China Sea, which covers 80% of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“China’s aggressive usurpation of South China Sea accompanied with large-scale fishing expeditions does not only result to destruction of marine resources, but also exhaust fish stocks in the seas, leaving less for our fishers. Moreover, the intensified Chinese annexation is adversely affecting our domestic food security. Decisively asserting our sovereign rights is a matter of right to food and livelihood for the Filipinos,” Hicap ended. ###