Fisherfolks only seeking shelter at Scarborough Shoal

March 3, 2014 at 9:06 am Leave a comment

By Yolanda Sotelo

LINGAYEN – It was noontime of January 27 and they were on their third day at sea. Suddenly, the water turned turbulent that the fishermen aboard 21 boats from this town and Zambales province sought shelter near the Scarborough Shoal.
But the shoal offered no relief as a docked Chinese vessel chased them out, and when they refused, the vessel’s crew trained their water cannon on them, drenching the nearest two boats.
“We sailed away towards the western side of the shoal. But the Chinese vessel followed us. It was only about 15 meters away. We were so afraid but we can’t go back to the sea. It would be more scary going back into the sea because of the hard wind. We contacted each other and decided to drop anchor,”Danilo Meru, 50, a fisherman from Cato, Infanta, said.
Between the Chinese vessel’s water cannon and the tumultuous sea, the fishermen decided that the water was less dangerous and just prayed for safety.
They were fortunate. The Chinese vessel stopped on its track and stopped the water canon, he said.
Another fisherman from the town, Ramoncito Dulas, 28, said the situation was really scary.
“We do not actually go near the shoal if the sea is calm because we are afraid of what the Chinese would do to us. But on that day, the wind was really blowing violently so we had to seek shelter there,” Dulas said.
Between the Chinese vessel’s water cannon and the tumultuous sea, the fishermen decided that the water was less dangerous.
The shoal was used to be free for the local fishermen until the Chinese arrived.
“We stayed there for months, and some workers would arrive to bring food, ice and other needed provisions. But we can’t do that anymore,Ricardo Magno, 47, said.
The three fishermen were on different boats that day the Chinese vessel drenched them with water “the only time it happened.”
But Magno said not all Chinese are aggressive. “It depends on the crew of the vessel that come. Some are good and they allow us to fish, as long as we don’t go very near the shoal,” Magno said.
They also said since January 27, they continue go out the sea to fish “as it is our only means of livelihood.”
“The shoal is very rich in fish, that even far from it we can catch plenty,”he said.
In Bolinao, the fishermen no longer went to Scarborough Shoal ever since the Chinese tried grab the fish-rich fishing grounds, municipal fishery officer Florante Garcia said.
It was no big deal as Bolinao has equally-rich fishery resources, he said.
“We advised them not to go near the shoal anymore for their own safety,” Garcia said.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ilocos regional office has established payaw or artificial reefs along coastal towns of Pangasinan and La Union for the local fishermen.
“We put the payaw so they do not have to fish near the shoal,” BFAR regional director Nestor Domenden said.
There are already 70 artificial reefs placed some five kilometers from the shore of the coastal towns and we plan to put 48 more, for a total of 118, within the year, he said.
Also, the BFAR would establish more payaw at 10 kilometers and 15 kilometers from the shore.
“We started to put payaw nearer the shore to benefit the marginal fishermen, so they need not go to the high sea as they use small boats,” Domenden said.

Entry filed under: News.

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