China calls alleged cyanide use in WPS ‘sheer fabrication’

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
China calls alleged cyanide use in WPS �sheer fabrication�
This photo taken on February 15, 2024, shows an aerial view of over Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing has denied claims that Chinese fishermen used cyanide in Bajo de Masinloc to destroy the resource-rich shoal and prevent Filipino fishers from entering their traditional fishing ground. 

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning called the claim of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources that Chinese fishers engage in cyanide fishing a “sheer fabrication.” 

Cyanide fishing is a destructive fishing method that involves dumping the highly toxic chemical on coral reefs to stun fish, making them easier to catch.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of eco-environment and conservation of fishing resources and resolutely fights against fishing activities that violate laws and regulations,” Mao said in a briefing Monday evening. 

China claims Bajo de Masinloc, which it refers to as Huangyan Dao.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila accused the Philippines of “continuous disinformation [that] has led up to nothing but exacerbation of the maritime tensions and destabilization of bilateral relations. 

“The groundless speculations, slanders and inconsistent statements of spokespersons of relevant Philippine agencies can only place their professionalism and credibility in doubt,” the embassy said. 

NSC probe

Over the weekend, BFAR spokesperson Nazario Briguera said in a news forum that Chinese fishers have been using cyanide to “intentionally destroy” Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, and prevent Filipino boats from accessing the area. 

Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) also said that Filipinos have long reported Chinese fishers’ use of cyanide, pointed out that previous and current administrations “have taken no action to stop the destruction of the Philippine fisheries.”

But Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard for West Philippine Sea matters, said in an interview with GMA News that there is no evidence or scientific study of the claim of BFAR.

National Security Council (NSC) Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said it is looking into the alleged use of cyanide by Chinese fishers in Bajo de Masinloc. It ordered the BFAR to gather more testimonies and pieces of evidence. 

Situated 240 kilometers west of Luzon, Bajo de Masinloc has long been a fishing ground utilized by generations of Filipino fishers.

China, which claims sovereignty over the shoal and its adjacent waters, deploys vessels to patrol the area. The shoal lies nearly 900 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese landmass of Hainan.

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