Back to Panatag? Put it in writing

Eva Visperas - The Philippine Star
Back to Panatag? Put it in writing
A resident prepares to fish in the waters off Barangay Inhobol in Masinloc, Zambales yesterday. President Duterte said Filipino fisherfolk may be able to return to the China-held Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in a few days. The shoal is also called Bajo de Masinloc in Spanish-era Philippine maps.

LINGAYEN, Philippines – A local executive of Pangasinan province is set to file a board resolution urging President Duterte to put on paper his assurance that Filipinos can fish again in Chinese-occupied Panatag or Scarborough Shoal and let concerned parties sign it.

Fourth district board member Jeremy Agerico Rosario told local reporters yesterday that he and fellow Pangasinenses are happy to hear the President’s announcement after his Beijing trip that Filipino fishermen can gain access to Panatag Shoal.

Rosario said those who go there for their livelihood are from Pangasinan towns like Infanta, Dasol, Bolinao and other coastal areas.

He said the sea dispute has affected the local fisherfolk’s livelihood badly, as Chinese fishermen would often shoo them away.

“There are many people from Pangasinan who are really affected, and we were even witness to some cruelty whenever they go there,” Rosario said.

In his visit to typhoon-stricken Tuguegarao, Cagayan last Sunday, the President told the locals: “We’ll just wait for a few more days. We may be able to return to Scarborough Shoal, and our countrymen may be able to fish there again.”

Saying the local fisherfolk are pinning their hopes on the President’s verbal pronouncement, Rosario pointed out:

“It should be in writing so that all can have something to hold on to. That should be put formally in writing, signed by both parties, so that our fishermen from Pangasinan can continue with their livelihood.”

Rosario said the Pangasinan provincial board would hold a “question hour” next session, inviting affected fishermen to shed light on their experiences while fishing at Panatag Shoal.

“Rest assured that we will do something out of this effort to hear directly from them and to possibly do whatever we can to help our fishermen,” Rosario said. “It starts from knowing what’s happening in the actual site and from there we could possibly think of measures that could be beneficial to the fishermen.”

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