Filipino fishermen ask gov't to act on 'barter' with Chinese coast guard

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Local fishermen called on the Philippine government to address the fish-taking incident with Chinese coast guard personnel at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday confirmed that the Chinese coast guard has been conducting a sort of barter trade with Filipino fishermen in the traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales.

Speaking in a Malacañang press briefing, fisherman Romel Cejuela narrated how the Chinese have been boarding their boats and taking away their catch from Scarborough Shoal.

"Gusto lang namin ipaabot sa ating gobyerno limitahan sila na ano lalapit doon sa amin 'yung maghihingi ng isda (We just want to ask the government to limit them from asking fish from us)," Cejuala told reporters.

The fisherman clarified there was no harassment but said the Chinese coast guard personnel were insistent on taking their fish from them.

"Linawin lang namin na wala naman ginawang pangha-harass sa amin kumbaga ano lang parang mapilit silang kukuha ng isda kasi hindi naman kami magkaintindihan 'yung ano lang doon 'fish' 'yun lang tapos aakyat sila sa amin (We will just clarify that there was no harassment, they were just insistent to take our fish but because we cannot understand each other they just say 'fish' and then they will go aboard our boat)," Cejuela said.

"Titignan nila 'yung mga lalagyan namin, titignan nila yung magagandang isda. Wala naman kami magagawa kasi nakikisama lang muna kami (They will look at our container, they will look at the best fish. We can't do anything because we were just trying to get along with them)," he added.

Cejuela compared themselves to a "crushed tin can" if they stand up against the Chinese.

Sometimes, he said, the Chinese would give noodles, cigarettes and water to the Filipino fishermen in exchange for their best catch.

The fisherman expressed concern that the Chinese may once again block them from entering the shoal if a misunderstanding would ensue between the Philippines and China over the incident.

"Hindi naman siguro 'yun totally harassment. Nirereklamo lang namin na siguro na mag-usap sila na anuhin 'yung coast guard nila na maghintay lang sila kung gusto nila maghingi ng isda 'wag sila aakyat sa bangka namin at maghalungkat pipiliin pa nila 'yung magagandang isda (That's not totally harassment. We're just asking them to talk to the Chinese coast guard, instruct them to wait for the fish and stop climbing on our boat and choosing the best fish)," the fisherman said.

This happens every time Filipino fishermen go to Scarborough Shoal to catch fish, according to Cejuela.

The fisherman also lamented that there are no Philippine vessels stationed around the area while the Chinese coast guard which has constant presence in the area.

Roque, on the other hand, said that he and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano already talked to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua about the Chinese coast guard's harassment of Filipino fishermen.

Beijing should discipline erring Chinese coast guard personnel, according to Roque.

"In-assure naman po ako ng ambassador na hindi po ito polisiya ng Tsina, na nag-iimbestiga ang Beijing at kung mapatunayan ang sinabi ng mga mangingisda ay mayroong kaparusahan na ipapatol dito sa mga Chinese coast guard na ito (The ambassador assured me that this is not a policy of China, that Beijing is looking into it and if proven that the statements of the fishermen are true, there will be punishment for these Chinese coast guard personnel)," Roque said.

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