Video disproves BBM: China still barring Filipino fishers

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

China still forbids Filipinos from fishing at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. A video nine days ago shows Chinese coastguards menacing them on approaching their traditional fishing ground. It belies President Marcos Jr.’s claim that Beijing “will not stop our fishermen.”

The fishers are from San Salvador isle, Masinloc, Zambales. During a respite from weeks-long torrential rains, they had sailed Jan. 11 to Panatag for food and income. They caught nothing, leaving to avoid usual Chinese machinegun fire and water cannonade.

The phone videographer requested anonymity. He and companions are with Bigkis Mangingisda that groups dispossessed fishers of Zambales, Bataan, Pangasinan and Ilocos. Ria Teves of rural NGO Peoples Development Institute shared the video.

Days ago Marcos Jr. told reporters of an accord with China President Xi Jinping to let Filipinos fish freely. “It’s really an agreement that China will not stop our fishermen from fishing. That’s it. Very simple,” he said.

Malacañang has yet to detail that deal made during Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Beijing on Jan. 3-5. International maritime lawyer Jay Batongbacal, PhD, said the wording should not be a selloff.

Only 123 miles from Zambales in Luzon, Panatag is within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone and 700-miles distant from China. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea grants coastal states EEZs for sole use.

China seized Panatag in 2012 on unfounded claim of a nine-dash line over the whole South China Sea. Gunboats chained off the mouth to the shoal’s lagoon. Thousands of Filipinos lost livelihoods in the Western EEZ.

Manila complained to The Hague arbitral court, which in 2016 trashed Beijing’s expansionism. China intensified its sea aggression.

Beijing habitually lies; Manila always falls for it. In September 2016, after a visit, then-president Duterte announced that China will no longer harass Filipinos at Panatag. A month later satellite photos showed China gunboats still controlling the lagoon, with Filipinos sailing at a distance.

In June 2019 a Chinese steel trawler rammed an anchored Filipino wooden boat at Recto (Reed) Bank, 120 miles off Palawan. The trespasser sped away, leaving 22 Filipinos floating in the cold night waters.

Calling it a “little accident”, Duterte justified the Chinese presence. He had allowed them into Recto in exchange for Xi letting Filipinos into Panatag – which never happened.

Senator Risa Hontiveros and former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said Duterte had no authority to give away Philippine EEZ. No limits were set in fishing area, volume and duration. The presidential spokesman retorted that the deal was only verbal.

In mainland Zambales, a Chinese-controlled miner has been despoiling nickel ore without permit. Yinglong Steel Corp. reportedly has dug up 250,000 tons of ore worth P1.3 billion from Masinloc, Botolan, Sta. Cruz and Candelaria, up to Infanta, Pangasinan.

Residents liken Yinglong’s destructive mining to that of three Chinese firms a decade ago. Exposed in this column, Jiangxi Rare Earth & Metals Tungsten Group, Wei-Wei Group and Nihao Mineral Resources Inc. brought misery to the shore towns. Forests were denuded, hillsides leveled, rivers choked and seas polluted.

Dust and emissions from thousands of dump trucks, bulldozers and backhoes sickened townsfolk, health officials confirmed.

In 2021 Candelaria residents decried how Yinglong turned Uacon lake reddish-brown. Uacon used to be Central Luzon’s cleanest lake. The Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources discovered that mining had heavily silted three lake tributaries. The SAVE Candelaria Movement failed to eject Yinglong.

Infanta artisanal fishermen can no longer catch in the “red sea”, said PDI’s Teves. “They’re going hungry.”

Last Monday, Yinglong attempted to ship out to China 50,000 tons of nickel laterite worth P250,000. Customs and coastguards stopped the vessel from departing Masinloc wharf. It had no export permit.

Yinglong is at the center of an official tug-o-war. In March-April 2022 DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau ordered it to cease. It had no environmental compliance certificate (ECC), MGB declared. It was only using an ECC issued to Westchinamin from which it acquired nickel extraction rights.

By law actual miners, not predecessors, must have ECCs. Westchinamin claims it has been paid only $850,000 of $20-million sale to Yinglong. It wants DENR to delist Yinglong.

On Dec. 23 deputy executive secretary for legal affairs Anna Liza Logan overturned MGB’s closure order. Dec. 29, DENR’s Environment Management Bureau issued Yinglong export permits.

Early this month two DENR undersecretaries, through MGB, recalled the permits. Customs seized the cargo. Yinglong cried harassment by MGB director Wilfredo Moncano. Its president Eugene Co had complained to the Ombudsman about MGB’s P10-million extortion in October 2021 for mining licenses. Yinglong paid an initial P3 million.

China uses nickel for military weaponry and spyware. Main source: Philippines, the world’s second largest nickel producer. It uses those weapons and spyware against Filipinos.

Ten years ago Masinloc civic leaders sought Supreme Court help against Jiangxi, Wei-Wei and Nihao. Carpio, as acting Chief Justice, issued a Writ of Kalikasan. Police and DENR shut down the destructive mines. Small-scale miners retook their sites from the Chinese giants.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).

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