A fisherfolk group said on Wednesday, May 12, Filipino fishers who used to frequent Scarborough Shoal are now unable to return to traditional fishing grounds in fear of being harassed or driven away by Chinese vessels.
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) Vice Chair for Luzon said two Chinese vessels are now guarding the passage entry of the lagoon inside Scarborough Shoal.
The lagoon, according to Roldan, used to serve as a “safe harbor” for Filipino fishers as it provides shelter from strong waves during turbulent weather.
“The lagoon inside Panatag Shoal provides us shelter from the storm. Aside from being a safe haven, it provides us abundant marine species that we could take back home after weeks of taking sanctuary,” Roldan said.
“But since China intensified its control over our exclusive economic zone, we have practically lost Panatag Shoal as well, and other traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea,” he lamented.
PAMALAKAYA also hit Duterte’s clarification that his 2016 campaign statement of riding a jet ski and challenging Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea was just a joke.
“President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission that his remark on Scarborough Shoal may be a joke to him, but it is a matter of fishing rights for Filipino fishers who are forced to abandon their traditional fishing grounds due to continued presence,” the group underscored.
In his public address on Monday, May 10, Duterte said his 2016 campaign statement to ride a jet ski to assert Philippine sovereignty in Philippine waters within the South China Sea was a “pure campaign joke” and that those who believed it were “stupid.”