Fishing with Filipinos in Panatag Shoal

Miguel de Guzman - The Philippine Star
Fishing with Filipinos in Panatag Shoal
Filipinos show their catch after fishing in Panatag Shoal amid the China Coast Guard’s continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Amid China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea, Filipino fishermen don’t run out of stories about their daily activities at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Atin Ito Coalition on May 16 accomplished its second civilian supply mission to Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, wherein China Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels reportedly set up a blockade to stop the convoy from reaching its main destination.

An “advance team” on May 15 arrived within 25 to 30 nautical miles of Panatag, also called Bajo de Masinloc, and distributed fuel and other supplies to fisherfolk

It may have been an eventful day for volunteers, but for the 30-crew F/B John, it was just another fishing day. 

Captain Junar Ytac, with more than 25 years of experience manning a fishing vessel, said they travel 12 to 14 hours from Masinloc or Subic, Zambales to their fishing area near Bajo de Masinloc, one of their closest fishing grounds.

They have more than 20 buoys in the West Philippine Sea to mark their fishing area. Some of it reaches as far as a few nautical miles away from Reed Bank near Palawan. 

Fishing usually takes three days to a week in the open sea.

They would travel to one buoy for a day, then travel to the next buoy to check for more fish.

Kenmark and Gerald, some of F/B John’s youngest crew members, recalled their experiences and told The STAR that we were lucky the sea was quiet that night or cameras would have been drenched.

Edwin, F/B John’s newest crewmember, is thankful to be a fisherman.

“Even though it hasn’t been a year since I’ve been a fisherman, I’m thankful because I’ve worked many jobs already. Sa pagiging mangangalakal, mangookra, kargador, dito sa pangingisda alam ko gaganda buhay ko,” he said, citing jobs ranging from junkshop worker to stevedore.

By 3 a.m., the crew prepared to cast their net. Fish gathered and glowed under the vessel.

By 5 a.m., they started to reel the net.

Around 7 a.m., they transferred their catch to an ice-filled container.

“We didn’t catch much but this is enough to feed our families,” a crewmember said.

The crew cooked paksiw na bangus and sinigang na baboy and shared more stories until disembarking at the port in Subic.

The STAR bonded with the F/B John crew for two days.

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