Fisherfolk in Zambales have been losing about 70 percent of their income per fishing trip since last year as their traditional fishing grounds have narrowed amid the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the area, a militant fishers’ group said Thursday, May 27.
In a statement, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said traditional fishing grounds of Filipino fishers have narrowed “due to intensified presence of Chinese personnel in the Panatag Shoal.”
Pamalakaya Vice Chair for Luzon Bobby Roldan reported that the average income of a small fisherman dropped from an average of P1,000 to P300 per fishing trip since last year.
“Hindi na kasi kami makalapit para mangisda sa bandang Panatag Shoal, kaya nagsisiksikan kami sa loob ng 15-kilometer municipal waters hanggang sa pinakamalayong 60 kilometro mula sa baybayin kung saan mas kakaunti ang nahuhuling isda (We could no longer go fishing near Panatag Shoal, so we crammed into 15-kilometer municipal waters up to the farthest 60 kilometers from the coast where fewer fish were caught),” Roldan said.
The fisherfolk leader said they could not return to Panatag Shoal in fear of being harassed or aggressively driven away by Chinese vessels staying in the area.
Roldan, a fisherman from Botolan, Zambales, lamented that their income is now only enough to cover the cost of production such as fuel and ice.
He said that small fishers who used to fish in Panatag Shoal are now swarming in a 15-kilometer municipal fishing grounds, adding that small fishers have to compete with local commercial fishing vessels which overwhelm their traditional fishing technology and gears.
The fisherfolk leader urged the government to sponsor fishing expedition in the West Philippine Sea to utilize its fishery and marine resources.
“China’s aggressive usurpation of South China Sea accompanied with large-scale fishing expeditions does not only result to destruction of marine resources, but also exhaust fish stocks in the seas, leaving less for our fishers,” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson.
“Moreover, the intensified Chinese annexation is adversely affecting our domestic food security. Decisively asserting our sovereign rights is a matter of right to food and livelihood for the Filipinos,” he added.