Infanta fishefolk still can’t fish at Scarborough

September 19, 2016 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment


By Yolanda Sotelo
INFANTA– The high seas may be scary during typhoons, but for fishermen from this town, severe weathers actually afford them the chance to fish unhampered at the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“But the boats must already have entered the shoal before the typhoons unleash their fury,” Lilibeth Quintero, 36, whose husband Gabrino captains his fishing vessel.
During the typhoons, the Filipino fishermen can freely fish at the shoal, unhampered by the Chinese coast guard who usually harass and shoo them away.
“This is because the Chinese are afraid to come out of their vessels during typhoons,” Quintero said.
Still, sailing to the shoal during typhoon seasons is risky for the local fishermen, as the typhoons may catch them while they are still at open sea.
It takes almost 24 hours for the fishing vessels to reach the Scarborough Shoal from this town, the last Pangasinan town before Zambales province.
Cato village of Infanta has 50 boats that can sail up to Scarborough Shoal, according to Connie Madarang, municipal agricuture officer.
But its only the brave-hearted fishermen who dare come near the shoal, Quintero said. As of the moment, she knows of no one who is brave enough.
The last time some fisherfolk went to the shoal, they were water-hosed by the Chinese.
“They (Chinese) would haul the nets. The hauling is fast. Our 20 banatas (a set of gill nets) was hauled. Since then, my husband refuse to go to the shoal,” she said.
The couple was not able to replace the nets.
Instead of the marine resources-rich Scarborough Shoal, the local fisherfolk now head towards payaw (artificial reef) areas about 30 miles from the shore. The payaws were established by commercial fishermen who allow the local folks as long as they use hook and line.
But the “harvest” is way below what they usually net at the Shoal.
Quintero said a week expedition at the Shoal could yield up to 2,000 kilos. At the payaw areas, a two-week stay could mean only from 700-1,000 kilos.
“Wala din yong Hague (The Hague decision is useless),” Hilda Espinoza, 43, rued. Her husband works in another fishing boat.
When the fishermen go back to the shore with empty boats, it is the wives who suffer, thinking of means on how to put the food on the table.
The situation is worse for the boat owners, as they have to provide for their workers needs until they are able to go fishing again.
Lourdes Marza, 40, said she and her husband used to own three boats, but now own only one.
“Its no longer a good business, as the catch is down sometimes to 600-800 kilos per trip,” she said.
Boat owners have to shell out about P50,000 for a one-week fishing venture, Quintero said. Of the amount, P20,000 is for gasoline, P9,000 is for ice, and the rest for food and other supplies for the fishing crew.
They should work fast, before the ice liquifies.
If the boat is unable to sail, the boat owners support the workers, giving them rice and other food. If the workers have children in school, they would take loans from the boat owners. The loan is payable when they are able to sail again.
And if they do, they hope to meet fellow fisherfolk from HongKong or Taiwan and other countries.
“They are friendly, sharing with us some food, water and cigarettes,” Quintero said.
And they hope not to cross or come near the vessels of Chinese would more often than not, would bully them.
“Ang mga Mainland Chinese lang ang walang kakampi,” she said.

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Entry filed under: News.

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