Zambales fishers need larger boats, modern equipment for WPS

E.H. Edejer - Philstar.com
Zambales fishers need larger boats, modern equipment for WPS
An old fisherman in Botolan, Zambales sits by small fishing boats, which are used in marginal fishing in municipal waters.

MASINLOC, Zambales — On top of safe access to Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, Zambales fishermen would need larger boats and updated fishing equipment so that they can gain comparative advantage and sustain their livelihood from the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

This was emphasized by Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. when the House of Representatives’ Committee on National Defense and Security and the Special Committee on the West Philippine Sea jointly conducted a public hearing here to determine the impact of Chinese incursion into the Scarborough Shoal. 

Ebdane, a former secretary of defense, noted that while the tension at WPS has socio-economic, political and security implications, the welfare of local fishermen is of utmost concern.

He pointed out that while the Philippines claimed victory in the arbitration case over the Scarborough, China has not acknowledged the ruling, thus rendering it unenforceable.

“So, there has to be an alternative to this problem in Bajo de Masinloc,” Ebdane said.

According to local fishermen, bullying by Chinese militia boats at the shoal has resulted to scant harvest. Add to this problem the stiff competition from legitimate fishermen from Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia, they added.

Despite this, they said they have yet to receive any help from the national government to ease the problem. 

Ebdane, however, said that short- and long-term programs are already in place to address the fishermen’s needs, including standby funds for fisherfolk groups that would venture into payao fishing, a system that uses fish aggregating devices in open sea.

“We’re laying the foundation to ensure development and progress for the next generation of fishers,” the governor said, adding that the long-term program involves reorganizing fisherfolk into cooperatives to qualify for financing, and then training them to boost capability to undertake the project.

Ebdane said the provincial government is teaming up with local educational institutions, including the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, to train the youth in new fishing technologies, as well as fishing boat operations, to provide “a better foundation” for fisherfolks.

Ebdane said some 65 fishermen’s groups in the province with about 4,500 members may qualify for financial assistance. 

He said fishers’ groups can avail of financial support starting at P5 for fishing implements, including payaos. The provincial government can provide up to P60 million should fishers opt to own and operate bigger boats, depending on their developed expertise and capability, he added.

Ebdane said that a fishermen’s cooperative in the town of Sta. Cruz would be the first group to avail of the provincial government’s assistance to modernize their fishing boat and equipment.

In the same hearing last Friday, Congressman Dan S. Fernandez of the lone district of Sta. Rosa, Laguna observed that the problem of limited access to Scarborough is exacerbated by the use of outdated fishing gears and technology. 

“We have to evolve,” he stressed. “If our fishermen would continue to use small traditional boats, they would really be in a dangerous situation.” 

“Why don’t you consolidate? Go fishing in groups, so that you will have better protection and that will also serve as deterrent to bullying,” he told the fishermen. 

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