“The situation within the Philippine waters has reached the level of crisis and the fisherfolk are struggling to survive.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Participants in a national fact-finding and solidarity mission (NFFSM) in Zambales called on government to make a “decisive action” to stop Chinese incursions in Philippine waters in the West Philippine Sea, saying the situation “has reached the level of crisis” for Filipino fisherfolk.
The NFFSM, led by Pamalakaya Pilipinas, also called on government to give immediate relief to fishing communities along the West Philippine Sea, who have “expressed frustration and disempowerment about their current situation.”
“The situation within the Philippines waters has reached the level of crisis and the fisherfolk are struggling to survive from their daily catch,” said a statement of the NFFSM sent to Bulatlat.com.
The NFFSM said the fisherfolk have lost their livelihood because of Chinese aggression in Philippine waters. It is compounded with other problems such as restrictive municipal ordinances and policies, which further limit their fishing source.
The fishermen also complained of water pollution “due to sediments from mining operations, intensive use of feeds in fish cages and coal-fired power plant emissions.”
Among those who joined the NFFSM were Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap, former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani and former Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Liza Masa, both of the Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberyanya (P1nas).
The NFFSM was held in Zambales on Sept. 18 to 20.
The NFFSM reported that fisherfolk from Iba, Subic, Masinloc and San Antonio have suffered losses in income since 2012, when Chinese Navy began patrolling Bajo de Masinloc, and kept Filipino fishermen from the rich fishing ground.
“In one of the discussions, one fishworker shared that before the dispute with China erupted, they used to earn Php3,500 ($75) per trip to Bajo de Masinloc, which usually lasts three to four days during fishing season in the months of February to May. Due to the incidents of harassment by the Chinese, the fisherfolk are fearful of going to Bajo de Masinloc and are forced to look for alternative sources of income,” said the NFFSM initial report.
The NFFSM called on Malacañang to give relief and direct support to small fisherfolk, through fishing gears, motorized boats, fishing net and help them upgrade their fishing technology. The statement also urged government “to forge unity with nearby states in protecting the Coral Triangle and shared marine resources and environment.”
The NFFSM said the Aquino government must make a stand to “defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines and pursue an independent foreign policy.”