The mayor of Masinloc town in Zambales on Thursday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure that Filipino fishermen would be allowed to continue fishing “unhurt” at Scarborough Shoal, following reports of Chinese harassment.
Mayor Arsenia Lim confirmed that members of the Chinese Coast Guard have been taking the catch of Filipino fishermen at the resource-rich shoal.
“Yun po ang hinihingi namin sa mahal na Presidente: Ang makapangisda sila ng hindi sila nabu-bully at sa oras ng malakas ang hangin ay makasilong naman sila roon sa lagoon,” he told reporters in Malacanang.
(That’s all we ask the President: for the fishermen to fish without being bullied and the right to take refuge in the lagoon when the winds are too strong.)
Internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, Panatag is a rich fishing ground off the coast of Zambales in the West Philippine Sea.
Scarborough is within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone. China seized Scarborough in 2012, prompting the Philippines to seek UN arbitration.
Lim said Scarborough has been a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos and local fishermen should not ask China’s permission to fish in the area.
“Hindi tayo dapat magpaalam pero sa ngayon ang posisyon ng LGU Masinloc ay ang karapatan nilang mabuhay sa ngayon at makapangisda sila ng maayos,” she said.
(We shouldn’t need to ask permission but Masinloc has the right to have a livelihood and to fish properly.)
A GMA News report last week showed members of the Chinese Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen at the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
“Yun nga, parang may passway, may toll fee sa gitna ng karagatan (It’s as if there’s a passway, a toll fee in the middle of the ocean),” she said.
“Binibigay po namin sa kanya na ngayon ang usapin dahil po siyempre siya po ‘yung taong karapat-dapat na umayos dito dahil siya ang Presidente natin. At bilang ama ng Pilipinas, hindi naman niya siguro gugustuhin na mapahamak ang ating mga kababayan lalo na mga malilit na mangingisda,” she said.