Group: Fisherfolk income down by 70% amid Chinese presence in disputed waters | Inquirer Business

Group: Fisherfolk income down by 70% amid Chinese presence in disputed waters

By: - Reporter / @kocampoINQ
/ 02:14 PM May 28, 2021

Round scad, locally known as galunggong, is being sold in the market.

MANILA, Philippines — The continued presence of Chinese vessels and coast guard in the Panatag Shoal has forced several fishers in Zambales and Palawan to abandon their traditional fishing grounds, resulting in a 70-percent cut in their income.

Following a consultation conducted by the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) with its members on Wednesday, it reported that the average income of a small-scale fisherman per fishing trip plunged to an average of P300 from an average of P1,000 last year.


Pamalakaya Vice Chair for Luzon Bobby Roldan said Filipino fishers are now unable to return to Panatag Shoal – a feature located 124 nautical miles from mainland Zambales and is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone – for fear of being harassed or aggressively driven away by Chinese ships that are patrolling the area.


Roldan recalled how their group was welcomed with “giant Chinese ships” in the area, and how, in some instances, some of the Chinese with bigger and more sophisticated vessels would take their own catch.

Fishers used to go to the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, to take advantage of its abundant resources where they catch marine species like bonito, squid, and yellowfin. According to Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap, a week-long fishing expedition in the area allows a fisherman to bring home P10,000, but that is not the case anymore.

Fisherfolk residents are now forced to stay within the 15-kilometer municipal waters to eke out a living where they are often crammed with local commercial vessels.

“What we’re earning right now is only enough to replace the cost of fuel and ice,” Roldan said in Filipino. “What’s worse is that fishers will surely drown in debt to survive.”

Willy Cruz, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Central Luzon, said in a phone interview with Inquirer that while these reports are possible, their office has yet to receive such complaints.

He cited the reports of two commercial operators who were able to fish in Panatag for a week without interference from the Chinese coast guards there. The expeditions happened during the second week of April and during the first week of May.


According to Cruz, the country’s own coast guard continues to patrol the area with the help of representatives from three BFAR regional offices, but Hicap said China’s presence in Panatag far outweighs any local efforts to secure the area for Filipino fishermen.

The group reiterated its call on the government to stage a state-sponsored fishing expedition in the West Philippine Sea to show the country’s commitment to protecting and utilizing its own fishery and marine resources.

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“China’s aggressive usurpation of the South China Sea accompanies with large-scale fishing expeditions does not only result in the destruction of marine resources but also exhausts fish stocks in the seas, leaving less for fishers … Decisively asserting our sovereign rights is a matter of right to food and livelihood for the Filipinos,” the group said.

TAGS: Fishing, Pamalakaya, Panatag Shoal

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