Marcos: Case over cyanide fishing possible if ‘there’s enough ground’

Marcos: Case over cyanide fishing possible if �there�s enough ground�
This photo shows an aerial view of Philippine fishing boats within the vicinity of over Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea on February 16, 2024.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The government will pursue legal action against Chinese fishermen if evidence supports claims of cyanide fishing in Bajo de Masinloc, also known as the Scarborough Shoal, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Tuesday. 

The National Security Council (NSC) is currently looking into the claim of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that Chinese fishermen used cyanide to “intentionally destroy” the fishing ground to prevent Filipino boats from entering the area.

“If we feel that there is enough ground to do so, we will,” Marcos said when asked if he intends to file a case against Chinese fishers. 

“I do know that there [have been] cases of cyanide fishing before even here in the Philippines, but I think the reason that it has been more alarming is that it has become more prevalent,” he added. 

Cyanide fishing, a destructive method, involves spraying or releasing the toxic chemical on coral reefs, stunning fish for easier capture. Cyanide also damages and kills corals.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Nng denied the accusations, calling the alleged use of cyanide by Chinese fishers a “sheer fabrication.” 

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

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

According to the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), Filipino fishers have long reported the use of cyanide by Chinese fishers. 

However, the coalition of small-scale fishers alleged that past and present administrations have taken no action to halt the destruction of the country’s fisheries. 

NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said Monday that the council has ordered BFAR to gather further witness accounts and concrete evidence to support their claims.

The amended Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 prohibits any foreign entity from fishing or operating any fishing vessel in Philippine waters.

Under the law, the entry of any foreign fishing vessel in Philippine waters constitutes a prima facie presumption of illegal fishing activity. 

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