Filipino fishermen ‘laugh at’ Chinese coastguard’s Scarborough Shoal antics: ‘they should give it back’

“I want to fish in there,” a defiant Satam, 54, told journalists as he stood barefoot on his light blue outrigger bearing a Superman “S” emblem.

“I do this thing often. They already chased me earlier today,” he said, adding the Chinese speedboats had bumped his vessel. “I just laughed at them.”

South China Sea: Philippines aims to ‘take control again’ of shoal from China

Scarborough Shoal is 240km (150 miles) west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900km from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate, countries have jurisdiction over the natural resources within about 200 nautical miles (370km) of their shore.

Since then, it has deployed coastguard and other vessels to block or restrict access to the fishing ground that has been tapped by generations of Filipinos.


Philippine coastguard removes Chinese barrier at disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

Philippine coastguard removes Chinese barrier at disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

The temporary barrier “prevents Filipino fishing boats from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities”, the Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau said in a joint statement condemning its installation.

It took 18 hours for the BRP Datu Bankaw to make the more than 300km journey to Scarborough Shoal from a port in Manila Bay.

More than 50 wooden outrigger fishing vessels, which Filipinos call “mother boats”, were operating in the deep waters outside the shoal when the Philippine ship dropped anchor on Wednesday last week.

Philippine resupply ship Datu Bankaw (centre) is seen anchored next to fishing boats in the South China Sea as it delivers food and fuel to Filipino fishermen last week. Photo: AFP

Some of the fishing crews had been there for two weeks already, using nets, lines and spears to catch tuna, grouper and red snapper.

To enable them to stay at sea for longer and catch more fish, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources carries out regular resupply missions.

Four Chinese coastguard boats patrolled the waters, keeping the BRP Datu Bankaw and Filipino fishermen away from the shoal.

The voice of a Chinese coastguard radio operator crackled over the airwaves 15 times, ordering the BRP Datu Bankaw to “immediately” leave “Chinese territory”.

Fishermen fill drums with fuel supplied by the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship Datu Bankaw near Scarborough Shoal. Photo: AFP

The instruction was repeated in English on a scrolling digital message board on one of the Chinese coastguard vessels.

Unfazed by the warnings, the 12 crew members of the BRP Datu Bankaw distributed 60 tonnes of fuel in blue plastic jerry cans to the fishing boats, as well as food packs for those running low on provisions.

The supplies were free for the fishermen, but some showed their gratitude by giving the BRP Datu Bankaw crew tubs of freshly caught fish.

“We are very grateful for this assistance,” said Johnny Arpon, 53, whose 10-metre boat “Janica” arrived at the shoal in time to stock up on extra diesel.

We are defenceless because they are armed … If they ram and sink our boats who will save us?

Filipino fisherman Alex del Campo on China’s coastguard

Some of the Filipino fishermen crowding around the BRP Bankaw in small outriggers to receive provisions climbed aboard to eat snacks and drink fresh water.

“They should give it back to us because this is ours,” said Nonoy de los Reyes, 40, referring to Scarborough Shoal. “They should leave this place.”

How Beijing is using a ‘fishing militia’ to assert its claims in the South China Sea

After decades of overfishing by countries surrounding the waters, the men have to spend longer at sea to catch enough fish to cover their costs and, hopefully, make a small profit.

China’s blocking of the shoal had made the situation even tougher and the fishermen said they hated them for it.

“We barely have any catch so we’ll probably need to stay two more weeks,” said Alex del Campo, 41, who had already spent more than a week at sea.

A day earlier, del Campo and two other fishermen had made a daring bid to enter the shoal in their small boats, but were chased away by Chinese coastguard personnel in rigid-hulled inflatable vessels.

“We are defenceless because they are armed and there was just one fisherman in each of our three boats,” del Campo said. “If they ram and sink our boats who will save us?”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button