HomeNewsZambales fisherfolk demand access to Scarborough Shoal amid approaching monsoon

Zambales fisherfolk demand access to Scarborough Shoal amid approaching monsoon

Fishers in Zambales are demanding that China respect their fishing rights at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) as the Southwest monsoon approaches.

“As Habagat approaches, Filipino fishers need access to the Bajo de Masinloc because it is a safe harbor that gives us shelter from the storm,” said Joey Marabe, provincial coordinator for Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) – Zambales. 

The shoal, situated 124 nautical miles off Zambales, remains a point of contention with reports of China Coast Guard ships blocking entry.

Marabe explained that the Chinese government’s restriction of access to Bajo de Masinloc, a territory claimed by the Philippines, significantly hampers the local fishers. 

“When caught by bad weather at sea, we must return to shore prematurely, often with inadequate catch. This has led to severe losses since we lost our shelter from rough seas,” Marabe said. 

PAMALAKAYA reported an income reduction of 70-80 percent per trip since Beijing’s 2012 control of the shoal.

“We are considering reaching out to the Filipino-Chinese community, who also call for a peaceful resolution to the tensions. We want to emphasize the plight of Filipino fishers who wish to return and fish in Bajo de Masinloc,” said Ronnel Arambulo, vice chairperson of PAMALAKAYA.

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The fishers expressed hope for dialogue that could de-escalate tensions and restore their access to the waters.

The Scarborough Shoal dispute forms part of broader, ongoing territorial conflicts in the South China Sea involving China, the Philippines, and several other Southeast Asian nations. 

Despite a 2016 international tribunal ruling that largely invalidated China’s claims over the sea, confrontations have persisted, with increased militarization and frequent encounters between Chinese vessels and those of other nations asserting their maritime rights. 

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