Chinese remove Pinoy fishers’ payao in West Philippine Sea

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Chinese remove Pinoy fishers� payao in West Philippine Sea
“It was in 2023, the BFAR awarded a payao. My fellow members of the association requested that the payao be placed at Scarborough Shoal, but before we harvested, it was already cut,” Alpay said
KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines —  Chinese vessels removed the payao installed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, while Vietnamese allegedly stole the contents of the fishing device in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), a fisherfolk group leader in Zambales said yesterday.

In an interview onboard the M/V DA BFAR vessel, Subic Commercial Association Inc. chair Fausto Alpay said the incident happened in 2023.

“It was in 2023, the BFAR awarded a payao. My fellow members of the association requested that the payao be placed at Scarborough Shoal, but before we harvested, it was already cut,” Alpay said.

Alpay added that the incident took place right after BFAR removed the Chinese floating barrier at Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.

“Our fellow fishermen helped BFAR remove the Chinese floating barrier and it triggered the removal of the payao,” Alpay added. “Our fish catch could reach five tons and above if we have the payao.”

“There were times that our catch only reached half a ton, one ton but we had no choice but to stay longer to cover the expenses. We go as far as 15 to 20 miles away from Scarborough just to catch more fish,” Alpay explained.

Meanwhile, Alpay said that Vietnamese fishermen were also involved in stealing the contents of the payao of Filipino fishers.

“At least 50 Vietnamese vessels surround the Scarborough Shoal and use super lights,” Alpay noted.

“Vietnamese use high-tech gear to determine if the payao is full. If they see our payao, they steal the contents,” he said, adding that they already informed authorities about the incident.

Meanwhile, BFAR spokesman Nazario Briguera on Wednesday contradicted the claim of China that the payao is destructive, after BFAR recently distributed the fishing device to fisherfolk.

“China was saying payao are destructive; the payao are not destructive. What is destructive is the unabated reclamation which destroy coral reefs,” Briguera said.

“First, we are not happy (about the cutting of payao), especially it is done by foreigners and it’s within our waters,” Briguera said, adding that efforts are being made to support the fishermen despite the ongoing challenges.

Briguera said that BFAR is trying to scale up the national payao program.

“We are trying to install trackers on our payao to monitor the payao distributed to fisherfolk,” he said.

Balikatan in West Philippine Sea

Amid the challenges in the country’s fishing sector, the government should hold a balikatan in the West Philippine Sea to protect the source of fish production, Sen. Cynthia Villar said on Tuesday.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, assured Filipino fishermen of continuing efforts to prioritize them.

“Since a big percentage of our fish production comes from the WPS, thus the need for a ‘balikatan’ to protect it,” Villar said in her keynote address during the launch of the Layag-WPS Project at Subic Gymnasium in Zambales on April 16.

Villar said the Livelihood Activities to Enhance Fisheries Yields and Economic Gains from the WPS or LAYAG-WPS Project was the result of the dedication of government, led by the Department of Agriculture-BFAR, to address some of the most important needs of Filippino fishermen particularly in the WPS.

The senator said the government started the project to provide fishermen with a source of livelihood and to guarantee the protection and welfare of every Filipino fisherman.

Villar hopes the livelihood inputs awarded to over a hundred fisherfolk become an instrument for an abundant and sustainable fish catch within territorial waters.


There are legitimate concerns that prompted other countries to support the country’s position against China, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-West Philippine Sea spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela said yesterday.

In his X account, Tarriela said the transparency strategy being implemented by the Marcos administration to expose the alleged aggression in the WPS has gained the support of other countries.

“President Marcos’ decision to enhance our security cooperation with the United States and other like-minded nations is driven by our national interest. The goal is to establish a robust alliance of countries that will collectively condemn and counter China’s actions that undermine the rules-based international order,” Tarriela said.

“Common sense dictates that if other like-minded nations also support us in opposing China’s ambitious, aggressive and illegitimate claims based on imaginary dash lines, there must be legitimate concerns at play,” he added.

“I often find myself wondering why the pro-China trolls consistently blame the US for the tension in the WPS, without acknowledging that it is the PRC (People’s Republic of China) that is using water cannons against our PCG vessels and supply boats, endangering the lives of our troops and harassing our Filipino fishermen,” the official said.

Re-pivot to China

Meanwhile, former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez gave President Marcos unsolicited advice yesterday, saying that it would be in the best interest of the Philippines to re-pivot its foreign policy direction toward aggressor China than keep a “delicate” US as an ally.

“Let’s look at the long-term perspective. China enjoys continuity in terms of leadership, while the US doesn’t. By November, Americans will have to choose – will they vote for the senile and forgetful or the crazy deranged guy?” Alvarez said.

“On top of these, the US is buried in debts, political polarization is at its peak and Americans are now shooting each other,” said Alvarez, an ally of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

“China is now far more superior than the US in terms of the economy, technology and even military might. They have nuclear weapons, they can fire at us at will and we can do nothing. We will only be helpless. Many Filipinos will die,” he cautioned.

“The US left Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine to fend for themselves even if they promised to defend them. Their hands are now also tied in the Middle East conflict because Israel, their ally, is being attacked. Now we’re going to ally with them? How about our safety?” Alvarez asked.

“The century of US global dominance is about to end, and yet we want to place our bets on them? We should think very hard on this,” he said, telling Marcos to continue the China pivot that Duterte did from 2016 to 2022. –  Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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