The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) should investigate the overfishing perpetrated by China’s vessels in the West Philippine Sea and account for the amount of catches of fishery products that were lost to the Chinese, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, April 21, said.
Hontiveros said the BFAR should heed the concerns of fishermen of Zambales over the diminishing amount of their fish catch as they are forced to hold back their fishing activities due to these Chinese vessels within the country’s maritime territories.
“Protecting our rights in the WPS is not just about our legal jurisdiction, but also about our country’s food security,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Government should be able to allow Filipino fishers to freely conduct their business: to catch fish. Ngayon, parang pinutulan ng kabuhayan ang sarili nating kababayan (Our own people seem to have been cut off from their own livelihood),” she added.
The fishermen from Zambales have said that at least 20 Chinese vessels have been spotted 111 kilometers off San Antonio town. One fisherman said they could hear foreign shops disturbing their fishing grounds at night.
Since the Chinese vessels made their present in the area, the fishermen claimed they would get almost nothing compared to the past where they could earn P4,000 on each fishing trip.
Filipino fishermen had also reported that Chinese vessels scour and raid giant clams in the disputed areas, like Scarborough Shoal.
Hontiveros said it is imperative that the government capacitates BFAR to do its job so it can make an accounting of how much fish was lost due to the Chinese activities in the area.
“BFAR should be able to regularly monitor these areas because we need to account for what is being stolen from us. The agency must be capacitated to do its job, so that we know how much is being withheld from our fisherfolks,” she said.
“Ang totoong datos at impormasyon ay makakatulong para matugunan ang mga pagkukulang ng gobyerno sa mga Pilipino (Only true data and information can help so we can address the government’s failure to Filipinos),” she noted.
China, the senator reiterated, owes the Philippines P800-billion for the years they exploited the West Philippine Sea.
“These figures were released even before the recent swarming of over 200 vessels, making it reasonable to presume that China’s debt to our country has ballooned in only the span of three months,” she said.
She appealed: “Our agencies — from the BFAR to the DND (Department of National Defense) — should work together to ensure that we defend our seas and the Filipinos’ way of living.”
“Kung kinakailangan samahan ang ating mangingisda para siguradong makapaghanapbuhay, gawin natin (If we need to accompany our fishermen to make sure they can pursue their livelihood, let’s do that),” she added.
“I am certain the costs that go along with protecting our fisherfolks is nothing compared to what we will surely lose in the long run,” the lawmaker stressed.