Fisherfolk group slams Panelo for dismissive attitude towards new footages of harassment

Published March 26, 2019, 7:56 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Minka Klaudia Tiangco

A fisherfolk group slammed Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo for his comments on the documentary showing elements of the Chinese Coast Guard confiscating Filipino fishermen’s catch and driving them away from Panatag Shoal.

Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (MANILA BULLETIN)
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said in a statement that Panelo appeared to be dismissive of the report after he claimed that the footage is old and asked for more recent proof of the incidents.

Once additional proof is presented, then the Philippine government will lodge a protest, Panelo said in a Palace press briefing on Monday.

“By asking proof about the harassment in Scarborough Shoal, is the government accusing our fisherfolk of lying about their situation? Why can’t the government trust its own fisherfolk and help them get back to their fishing waters peacefully?” said PAMALAKAYA National Chairman Fernando Hicap.

The six-minute documentary shown by senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares featured fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales, complaining of low fish catch due to elements of Chinese Coast Guard driving them away from Panatag Shoal, and sometimes even confiscating their catch.

The fisherfolk group claimed that not only is the administration “turning a blind-eye” on the “harassment” being done to the Filipino fishermen, they are also “conspiring with the Chinese government” in taking over the West Philippine Sea at the expense of the country’s sovereignty.

“Our question to Mr. Panelo is, whose side is the Duterte government on? Because we don’t feel any sympathy or concern from our government in the midst of this ongoing aggressive invasion of China that put the livelihood of thousands of Filipino fisherfolk, as well as our local food security, at stake,” Hicap added.

Meanwhile, Kip Oebanda, the director of the documentary, denied that the footage is old and said it was only shot last month.

He posted on Facebook a behind-the-scenes photo of the shoot dated February 16.

“It is one month and one week old.  We were a volunteer team and barely had any budget. We went there to listen to them and aimed to record what we found. These are facts,” Oebanda said.

The award-winning filmmaker called on the government to believe the stories being told by the fishermen and prioritize the poor people’s needs.

“Minsan lang nabigyan ng boses ang mga mahihirap sa eleksyon na ito, sasabihin niyo pang hindi totoo. ‘Wag ganun. Magtulungan tayo para sa mga mga naaping kababayan natin. ‘Wag nating maliitin ang kalagayan nila (It is rare for poor people to be given a voice during the elections, and then you will claim that their experiences are not true. Don’t be like that. Let us help one another to defend our countrymen who are being harassed. Let us not trivialize their condition),” he added.