China cordon drives fishers inland
SAN FERNANDO CITY—More artificial reefs, or payaw, are being set up along the shorelines of three Pangasinan towns facing the West Philippine Sea to help Filipino fishermen who have been displaced by efforts by China to lay claim to Philippine territory using its superior military force, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Nestor Domenden, BFAR Ilocos director, said 15 artificial reefs are ready for installation 60 to 70 nautical miles from the shores of Infanta, Dasol and Agno towns to serve commercial fishermen who were driven away by conflict in the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) brought about by Chinese intrusion.
China, using its military might, is claiming parts of Scarborough Shoal as its territory despite the area being nearest to the Philippines and despite evidence showing that it belonged to the Philippines.
The BFAR Ilocos office, the Philippine Navy and the region’s commercial fishing boat operators have teamed up to erect the artificial reefs.
Domenden said materials for the artificial reefs have been turned over to associations of commercial fishing boat operators and the Navy would help them put up the contraptions.
“We have been receiving reports about commercial fishers who were unable to go near the Scarborough Shoal and the establishment of the payaw is the government’s intervention to help their livelihood,” Domenden said.
Chinese vessels have cordoned off the shoal, which is 200 nautical miles from Zambales, preventing commercial fishers from entering the rich fishing grounds.
Domenden said seven payaw would serve Infanta fishermen, five Agno and three Dasol.
He said the anchors are made from drums which had been filled with concrete earlier this month.
“We are just waiting until the concrete is ‘cured’ and they will be set up through the help of the Navy,” Domenden said.
“Floaters or buoys will be attached to the anchors using cables and ropes. Coconut fronds would be fastened to the cables and ropes which would serve to attract deep sea fish,” he said.
“Fish are usually attracted to anything that floats, even just a sandal. Throw a sandal into the sea and several hours later you will find plenty of fish surrounding it,” Domenden said.
He said the artificial reef initiative at the West Philippine Sea is different from the agency’s artificial reef program which aims to erect one artificial reef for every five kilometers of shoreline from Infanta to Ilocos Norte.
That program serves small fishing boats, and may be completed before the year ends, he said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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