Be careful, Tolentino tells Pinoy fishermen as China arrest threat looms


At a glance

    China Coast Guard finds no traces of 36 Filipino seafarers missing at sea in Japan(MANILA BULLETIN)










    Senate Majority Leader Francis “Tol” Tolentino has told Filipino fisherfolk to exercise precautions as they sail to fish in their traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). 

    This, as regional power China is expected to begin implementing on Saturday, June 15 a unilateral arrest order against individuals caught fishing in its supposed territory. 

    Tolentino said Filipino law enforcers used to patrol Bajo de Masinloc off the coast of Zambales, where many foreign fishermen, including Chinese and Vietnamese, were arrested for illegal poaching since it had always been a territory and traditional fishing grounds of the Philippines. 

    “And now it is the other way around. We will be detained for 60 days without trial. Yesterday (June 14), I had a meeting with Secretary Enrique Manalo of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and we agreed that if the Chinese arrest and detain Filipino fishermen, this will be the highest level of aggression against us,” he said. 

    Tolentino, chairman of the Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, said it is not clear where the Chinese would bring the arrested Filipino fishermen, whether on their ship or to China, for detention if they made true their threats. 

    Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim of Zambales province, where most fishermen go to Bajo de Masinloc, had advised the fishermen from her town to avoid areas where they would likely face danger. 

    Lim said the fishermen from Masinloc town had suffered the most, with more than half of their previous catch gone because of China's threat to enforce its supposed domestic law on the South China Sea (SCS) by detaining for 60 days without trial fishermen caught in its claimed territory. 

    She said that the fisherfolks who invested in payao (fish aggregating device) could not recoup their capital of at least P100,000 for each payao deployed in Bajo de Masinloc. 

    Tolentino reiterated, however, that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) should encourage Filipino fishermen to continue fishing and assert their rights over the fishing grounds in the WPS. 

    He has set meetings with the DFA regarding enforcing the so-called domestic law China enforces, which he said is tantamount to surrendering our traditional fishing grounds should the Philippine government recognize them.  

    Tolentino said he agreed with Mayor Lim’s apprehension about where to visit the fishermen if they were detained because the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations guides the consulate office on where to visit their citizens if they are detained in foreign territories. 

    “If Bajo de Masinloc is a Philippine territory, the Vienna Convention would not apply because it is ours. It will only apply if it is outside our territory,” he explained. 

    Tolentino stressed that applying the Vienna Convention would imply that the Philippines recognize the Bajo de Masinloc as a foreign territory if arrests were ever made.