Fisherfolk slam Zambales governor's complacency on WPS

Fisherfolk slam Zambales governor’s ‘complacency’ on WPS tension

Fisherfolk slam Zambales governor's 'complacency' on WPS tension

Photo from Pamalakaya-Pilipinas/FACEBOOK

MASINLOC, Zambales — The fisherfolk group Pamalakaya has refused to accept the stance of Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. in connection with upholding the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Pamalakaya Vice Chairperson Ronnel Arambulo said regardless of whether China complies or not with the international arbitral ruling, the Philippine government has all the rights to do so.


“Such a statement from Governor Ebdane reflects the Philippine government’s complacency and passivity with the ongoing Chinese occupation of our waters,” Arambulo told the Inquirer.


Arambulo added that Ebdane’s statement showed that the Filipinos have nothing to expect from the leaders “who act like sitting ducks in the face of usurpation and plunder by a foreign superpower.”

READ: Zambales execs admit: Can’t enforce ruling vs China

During a public consultation held in this town by the House Committee on National Defense and Security, and the special committee on the WPS on May 24, Ebdane, a former national police chief and national security adviser, said that if the arbitration case against China was one-sided, “we can’t really enforce it.”

Ebdane asserted that local fishermen should be able to acquire bigger boats and better fishing equipment, and, in the face of the security problem in the WPS, find alternative fishing grounds where they could continue to ply their trade safely.

Ebdane said that as far as local fishermen are concerned, the provincial government has short- and long-term programs in place to address their needs, and has set the stage for sustainable fishing by putting up millions in funds for fisherfolk to go into payao fishing, a system that uses fish aggregating devices in the open sea.

“We’re laying the foundation to ensure development and progress for the next generation of fishers,” he said, adding that the long-term program starts with reorganizing fisherfolk into cooperatives to qualify for financing, followed by training and apprenticeship to ensure they are ready to undertake the project.


Ebdane added that the provincial government was 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 fisherfolk.

He said a recent survey indicated that there were 65 fishermen’s groups in the province, with about 4,500 members.

“They can already get a big fishing boat for P1.5 million, and we can provide that at no interest,” he added.

“There is really a big problem when our fishermen cannot access Bajo de Masinloc,” Ebdane observed.

He added: “Worse, if they remain doing marginal fishing, then they become a problem to local government units because we have to dole out food or cash assistance every time they cannot go out to fish.”

READ: ‘Even Zambales fishermen hit by China water cannon assault’

The recent threat by China to detain “trespassers” in the South China Sea is another concern that must be addressed within the parameters of international law, he added.

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

But for Arambulo, Ebdane’s idea is like the issue of jeepney modernization, which would bury the fishermen in debt.

“There will be no alternative fishing grounds but the municipal waters. That’s why small fishers and commercials are swarming within the municipal waters because it’s hard for commercials to get out,” said Arambulo.

Arambulo also explained that if the fishermen find other fishing grounds, it is not sustainable either because the cost of production or fuel expenses will increase, which will also reflect on the retail price, thus another inflation.

He lamented the local officials’ statement that marginal fishermen who could not go to Scarborough Shoal “became a problem to the local government.”

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“They (local officials) really treat government assistance like alms,” Arambulo said.

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TAGS: fisherfolk, West Philippine Sea, WPS, Zambales

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