Masinloc Mayor compares fish-taking incident in Panatag to toll system
Posted 4 years ago
By Genalyn Kabiling
Local fishermen have been bullied into paying fish as “toll fee” to Chinese coast guards while sailing in Panatag Shoal, a local government official said Thursday.
(AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe/MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Mayor Arsenia Lim of Masinloc, Zambales said the controversial fish-taking incident in Panatag was similar to a toll system, not a barter trade, in the middle of the ocean, as she appealed for the government’s help to protect the welfare of the fishermen.
“Parang may passway, may toll sa gitna ng karagatan. ‘Yung hinihingian sila ng isda [It’s like a passway, there’s a toll in the middle of the ocean. They are being asked for fish],” she said in an interview with reporters in Malacañang.
“Hindi (barter) po. Toll fee po. Kaya sabi ko hanggang dagat ba meron pang toll fee [That’s not barter. It’s toll fee that’s why I said even the ocean has a toll fee],” she added.
She said Masinloc fishermen, being good people who don’t want to pick fight, have agreed to give the fish to the Chinese rather risk losing access to the fishing ground.
Nonetheless, Lim has urged the government to help ensure local fishermen can fish in Panatag free from any bullying.
“Hinihiling namin kay Presidente na mapangisda sila na hindi nabu-bully at sa oras ng malakas ang hangin ay makasilong sila sa lagoon [We ask the President to ensure they can fish without being bullied and in case of strong winds, they are allowed to seek shelter in the lagoon],” she said.
“Sana makapangisda ng maayos ang aking mga kababayan at nang hindi sila nasasaktan [We hope our countrymen can freely fish and will not be harmed],” he added.
She said Masinloc fishermen shouldn’t have to ask permission from the Chinese to access Panatag since the territory belongs to the country. But she stressed that the most important matter now is the right of the fishermen to livelihood.
Lim said they don’t want to fight China over the incident but expressed hope Filipinos would be allowed without fish in the Panatag, a traditional fishing ground, without harassment. She said there around 5,000 fishermen living in Masinloc, but only a small fraction can sail to Panatag Shoal.
“Ayaw namin ng gulo. Ang importante ngayon, sa panahon ngayon, makipagkaibigan muna tayo na hindi natin sinasakripisyo ang claim natin na ‘yan ay sakop ng bayan at bansang Pilipipinas. Ang importante négaton ay mabuhay sila ng maayos.”
Three Masinloc fishermen earlier complained that Chinese coast guards have boarded their ships and forcibly took away their best catch while sailing in Panatag Shoal. They said the Chinese sometimes gave noodles, cigarettes, and water in exchange for their fish catch.
Romel Cejuela, one of the fishermen, claimed that China still controls Panatag due to the presence of coast guard fleet and absence of its Philippine counterpart.
Vowing to protect the fishermen, Malacañang has promptly called on China to discipline its coast guards and prevent them from filching fish from the locals.
China has recently assured it has no policy of harassing fishermen in Scarborough Shoal and vowed to impose disciplinary actions if allegations of misconduct by its coast guards are proven. Initial investigation indicated the exchange of goods was considered part of the barter system in the high seas.