A non-government organization (NGO) advocating for the welfare of Filipino fishermen urged the national government Wednesdsy, March 16, to act on the reported overfishing of Chinese commercial vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Edicio dela Torre, president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, said that China’s alleged overfishing in the Philippines’ territorial waters are affecting the livelihood of Filipino fishermen since they are catching lesser fish.
“Ang problema humihina na ang huli. Ang isda naman, hindi nagrerecognize ‘yan ng boundary. Kapag nahuli ang marami ng malalaking Chinese vessels, humihina na rin ang makukuha ng mga mangingisda sa ating municipal waters (The problem is that the [Filipino fishermen’s] catch is getting smaller. Fish cannot recognize boundary. If they are caught by the bigger Chinese vessels, the catch of local fishermen in our municipal waters is decreased),” he said.
“Ang mas mabigat, ‘yung huling dapat may parte tayong malaking portio, nahuhuli na rin ang mga isda mula doon sa territorial waters at lampas noon (What’s worse is that catch that’s supposed to go to our fishermen are also being netted [by Chinese vessels] even in our territorial waters and beyond),” he added.
AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, a group of scientista monitoring the WPS, previously said that China’s activities in the WPS could displace about 627,000 fisherfolk in the Philippines.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea had urged local fishermen to go to the West Philippine Sea and cast their nets as they were assured that no foreign vessel will harm them with the increased patrol operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
But Dela Torre said that the situation on the ground was different since China is “fishing aggressively and harassing fishers.”
“Malaki naman ang West Philippine Sea na tumingkad na lamang dahil nga sa kilos ng China na hinaharass ang mga mangingisda sa bandang Zambales coast. Ang West Philippine Sea, mayroon din sa Palawan, pero dito sa Zambales talaga naging dramatic ‘yan eh (The West Philippine Sea is a big body of water but it started having issues ever since China harrassed local fishermen around Zambales coast. The West Philippine Sea encompasses Palawan but in Zambales, the situation was dramatic),” he stated.
“Nauubos ‘yung mga isda. Grabe mag-fishing ang Chinese commercial fishing boats (There were no more fish. Chinese commercial fishing boats are fishing too much),” he added.
Aside from this, Dela Torre also said that their group opposes the lowering of tariff to imported fish as importers double the volume of the fishes that they bring into the country.
In fact, he claimed that China has been exporting fish to the Philippines that are caught from the WPS.
To address the fishermen’s concerns, Dela Torre urged the national government to start the discussion about the establishment of a Department of Fishery.
“Dapat mapalakas at mapalaki rin ang kapasidad natin na protektahan ang ating mga maliliit na mangingisda (We should strengthen and broaden our capacity to protect our fishermen),” he said.
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