West Philippine Sea

Filipino fisherfolk to Duterte gov’t: Let us fish in our own waters

Rambo Talabong
Filipino fisherfolk to Duterte gov’t: Let us fish in our own waters

DRILLS. The Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources hold drills in the West Philippine Sea on April 24, 2021.

Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard

(1st UPDATE) Vice President Leni Robredo promises to send a team to Masinloc to find out how her office could improve the fishermen's livelihood

Some Filipino fisherfolk still cannot fish in their own country.

In an emotionally charged statement on Sunday, July 11, hundreds of Filipino fisherfolk called on the Philippine government to act on the Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea, where thousands of fishers make their living.

Kaming mga mangingisda…ay patuloy na pinagbabawalan ng Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) na pumasok at mangisda sa loob ng Bajo de Masinloc/Scarborough Shoal sa West Philippine Sea at sa mga kanugnog na lugar sa karagatan ng Luzon at Kalayaan Island Group,” the fisherfolk said.

(We fisherfolk are still forbidden by the Chinese Coast Guard to enter and fish inside Bajo de Masinloc/Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, and surrounding areas in the seas of Luzon and the Kalayaan Island Group.)

The fisherfolk, belonging to the Bigkis ng Mangingisda group, said the Chinese would ride around the area in rubber boats, with around four armed men each. Even larger Filipino boats were turned away by these Chinese patrolers, they said.

The fishermen reported their experiences just months after China passed a law allowing its Coast Guard to use armed force against anyone found in Beijing-claimed waters.

Dahil dito, lalong lumala at tumindi ang kagutuman at kahirapan ng aming mga pamilya (Because of this, hunger and poverty has worsened among our families),” the fishermen said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese continue to harvest giant clams and destroy coral reefs, the fishermen said, actions which disrupt the ecosystems that sustain their catch.

Hindi makatarungan na maganap ang mga ito sa ating sariling bayan, na ang mga Pilipino mismo ay pinagbabawalang mangisda at magtamasa ng biyaya mula sa mga karagatan ng Pilipinas,” they said.

(It is unjust that this is happening in our own nation, that Filipinos themselves are forbidden to fish and to reap the blessings from the waters of the Philippines.)

The fishermen called on the Philippine government to do the following to ease their conditions:

  1. Stand for the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea
  2. Protect the people and the natural resources of the Philippines from foreign intrusion
  3. Protect the rights of Filipino fisherfolk to fish in the West Philippine Sea
  4. Recognize human rights based on standards set by the United Nations
  5. Create a national policy to protect the interests of Filipino fisherfolk
  6. Investigate and document the experiences that Filipino fisherforlk have suffered from Chinese intruders

These incidents of intrusion, fishermen pointed out, are part of a long history of Chinese expansion in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines’ sovereign rights over the area were affirmed by a Hague court ruling in 2016, but the Duterte administration has not been enforcing it as it pursues warmer ties with China.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has been lodging diplomatic protests against Beijing, but fishermen have not seen a let-up of Chinese incursions in Philippine waters.

VP assistance

In conversation with Ernie Egana, one of the fishermen in the petition, Vice President Leni Robredo vowed on her weekly radio show Sunday to help address the issue. She promised to send a team to Masinloc to find out how the Office of the Vice President could improve the fishermen’s livelihood.

Paabot lang po sa mga kasama ‘nyo na kaisa ‘nyo kami,” Robredo assured Egana.

(Please tell your fellow fishermen that we are one with your cause.)

Read the full statement of the fisherfolk below:

– Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.