“It is a huge suffering for the fishermen, especially for their families. If you have no money and your pots are empty, what will happen to you?”
By BETTINA CATLI and CHRISTINE CABANATAN
MANILA – The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) led various fisher folk groups in a protest at the Chinese embassy on July 3 in Makati, to demand an end to Chinese encroachment in Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea.
Fisher folk groups from La Union and Bataan, as well as members of Anakpawis and Pamalakaya, tried to submit a protest letter to the Chinese Embassy. However, the consulate staff refused to receive their letter.
“This (Chinese) government has no respect for us, nakakagalit!” exclaimed Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chairperson for Luzon.
“It is almost two months that our fishermen could not fish in their area by the West Philippine Sea, because of China’s presence,” France said.
In the past months, China has been swiftly reclaiming parts of the West Philippine Sea to build structures.
Various groups have repeatedly reproached these actions as damaging to the ecosystem and environment of the sea.
Honival Laranang, a fisherman from La Union, shared his plight as one of the affected fisherfolk.
“Our income is not enough now, because the coral reefs where the fish lay their eggs are destroyed,” Laranang said. He said that on a good day, they used to haul up to 10 kilos of fish, which they trade in the market for up to P300 ($7), but since the Chinese began their reclamation, they barely haul in a kilo, earning only P70 ($1.50).
“It used to be enough for our everyday needs, but now all the fishermen and their families are hungry,” Laranang said.
“Currently, there are about 13,000 fishermen who could not fish in one of our richest fisheries,” France said. He said Chinese ships chase away Filipino fishermen with water cannons.
“Once they see these giant ships, our fishermen get scared and apart from using water cannons, these men on the ships carry long guns with them,” France said.
He said the Chinese raise yellow flags as a warning signal to the fishermen to leave, or they will face the water cannons directed at them.
“It is a huge suffering for the fishermen, especially for their families. If you have no money and your pots are empty, what will happen to you?” he said.
France also warns of the effects of the fisher folk being kept out of the West Philippine Sea.
“A fish crisis looms in the country, because 11 percent of the fish consumed in Metro Manila come from the West Philippine Sea, and because the Chinese are destroying about 500 classes of coral reefs, there would be no place for the fish to lay their eggs,” France said.
France said the Chinese encroachment might reach the Tubbataha Reef, which is also in the West Philippine Sea and houses about 1,000 kinds of fish. The reef is protected by Republic Act 10067 and is one of the most preserved ecosystems in the country.
“We should not be afraid because they are the ones who are illegally breaching into our country,” France stated. “We will fight to the fullest.”