Chinese ships ram PH fishing boats
SUBIC, Zambales—A Chinese ship last week rammed three boats carrying 29 Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground in the West Philippine Sea, which China is claiming to be part of its territory.
No one was hurt in the incident, the fishermen told the Inquirer on Monday.
The fishermen, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that around 9 a.m. on Friday, one of the Chinese coast guard vessels patrolling the shoal hit the fishermen’s three boats and drove them away. They said this destroyed their boats’ outriggers.
The shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, is 230 kilometers (124 nautical miles) from Masinloc town in Zambales province.
It used to be a free zone for local fishermen until the Chinese began patrolling the West Philippine Sea amid a territorial dispute with the Philippine government.
The fishermen, who came from Barangay (village) Calapandayan in Subic town, said that while they were not hurt, most of them were traumatized by the incident.
They said they saw two Chinese coast guard personnel holding guns that were pointed at their direction.
One of the fishermen, who returned home from the shoal on Monday, said they were able to fix their boat’s outrigger using ropes.
“We were out at sea for five days when big waves and strong winds forced us to seek refuge in the shallow waters of the shoal,” the fisherman said.
He said that while near the shoal, they saw a Chinese ship circling the two boats in their group before it approached and rammed theirs.
“One of the Chinese coast guard personnel was holding a megaphone and ordered us to leave the area,” the fisherman said.
He said the Chinese vessel repeatedly blew its horn as it approached their boats.
“We saw at least 10 Chinese vessels roaming the shoal at that time and some of their personnel were armed,” another fisherman said.
He said they reported the incident to a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) detachment in nearby Pangasinan province.
An officer of the PCG substation in Infanta town in Pangasinan said their office had been receiving reports from local fishermen since last month that Chinese ships had been driving them away from the shoal.
The latest incident happened a year after a group of fishermen in Pangasinan and Zambales reported that Chinese vessels fired water cannons at their boats while these were anchored at Scarborough Shoal.
Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea continues amid efforts by the Philippine government to bring the territorial dispute to arbitration, a move that China continues to reject, accusing the Philippines of being the troublemaker.
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