MANILA –China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea is taking a toll on the fishing communities in Luzon, and many have turned away from fishing, to find work elsewhere.
An initial report of a field study by a group from the University of the Philippines (UP) said that some of their respondents have shifted to farming and piggery, and some had spouses who left to work abroad to augment the family income.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap said government should give “swift and adequate relief and assistance” to these affected fishing communities.
The study was conducted in Masinloc, Zambales province and in Infanta, Pangasinan province, from June 30 to July 5, to look into the impact of China’s incursions among the fisherfolk who have lost access to their fishing grounds. The study was led by UP sociology professor Sarah Raymundo and maritime anthropologist Dr. Cynthia Neri Zayas, director of the Center for International Studies.
The preliminary findings revealed that since 2012, Filipino fisherfolk and fishing vessel owners have been driven away from their fishing ground, particularly, Scarborough Shoal, which is called Kalburo by locals. The Chinese Coast Guard has been chasing away smaller Filipino boats with water cannons or display of high-powered weapons.
“Even before the Chinese government blocked off the shoal, local fishermen have witnessed Chinese fishing vessels scraping off corals, harvesting Taclobo or giant clams, and capturing Pawikan or sea turtles, all of which are considered illegal under the Philippine Fisheries Code,” the initial report said.
The study said that fishing vessels used to average one to three tons of fish, per trip. The captain of the mother boat gets paid P3,500 ($222) per haul, while the crew in the smaller boats get paid by the kilo of their catch. However, losses in income have pushed fisherfolk and financiers to find other livelihood.
“Financiers of these fishing trips to Kalburo were forced to sell their boats and instead they turned to farming, poultry, and piggery,” the study said.
“As for the fishermen themselves, some of them have opted to work as part-time tricycle drivers and part-time fishermen whenever they are hired by a financier. This has resulted in intermittent income for fishermen households,” said the study. It said that this year, some of the wives of the fishermen have left the country to work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.
The study also cited a case of two Masinloc fishermen who were stranded in a small boat by the shoal for two days, because a Chinese Coast Guard vessel prevented their mother boat from fetching them. The fishermen went without food for two days, until the mother boat was able to evade the Chinese vessels and rescue them.
“This is just one of the many Kalburo stories of our fishermen ever since the Chinese Coast Guard started occupying the Scarborough Shoal,” the study said.
The study was part of the course on Diversity of Perspectives in Peace and Conflict or Global Studies 197. Five students participated in the study: Myra Cabujat, Angelica Pilapil, Marion Taguinod, Lemuel Teh, and Japanese Masumi Baba.
The fisherfolk group Pamalakaya had warned of possible fish shortage because of China’s encroachment in Philippine fishing grounds.
Hicap cites data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which said that the West Philippine sea accounts for 26 percent of the country’s fishing grounds, and the source of livelihood of some 12,000 fisherfolk from Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan and Palawan. The Chinese reclamation has caused P4.8 billion ($305 million) losses in the local economy, while Zambales fisherfolk lose about P300,000 ($19,000) worth of a week’s catch.
“The effects of Chinese incursion into our territory is seriously damaging, violates our national sovereignty and the people’s basic rights to food and livelihood,” Hicap said. He added that government must include funds for relief to communities whose livelihood are affected by China’s incursions.
In spite of its incursions, the Aquino administration is “actually still giving favors to China,” Hicap said.
He cited the P3.75 billion ($8.3 million)-contract awarded to Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. for the supply of new train coaches for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3). The company is a largely owned by a Chinese state-firm and a subsidiary of CNR Group, formerly the China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry Corporation.
“China has established itself in our strategic sectors such as power, mining, and now transportation, which, it seems, is just normal business for the Aquino government as it continues to recognize and even encourage all of these Chinese enterprises despite the abuses of China against the country and the Filipino people, Hicap said.
Anakpawis had earlier called on the Aquino administration to cancel all mining permits of Chinese firms across the country, as well as its share in the strategic power sector firm National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP). (bulatlat.com)