Subic fishermen heed call to avoid Scarborough Shoal
SUBIC, Zambales—Boat captain Aniceto Achina, 40, and his 12-member crew were taking shelter from strong winds on Scarborough Shoal on July 12, the day an international tribunal ruled against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Achina said the Chinese coast guards patrolling the shoal had not blocked their way, allowing them to seek refuge in the rocky outcrop as huge waves battered their boat.
“But the Chinese patrols asked us to leave the following day. They said there was an order from their government to eject us from the shoal,” Achina said on Saturday.
“It is sad that the victory of our country is just on paper. China is not giving up on the Scarborough Shoal,” said Jojo Castorico, 44, one of Achina’s crew members.
Castorico was referring to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, favoring the Philippines’ arguments that China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the so-called “nine-dash line” had no legal basis.
Scarborough shoal is located 230 kilometers from Masinloc town in Zambales province, which is well within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Achina said a Chinese Coast Guard speedboat encircled their fishing boat several times, so he and his crew decided to cut short their fishing trip and return home to avoid a confrontation. They arrived here on July 14 with barely five boxes containing less than 15 kilograms of fish they caught near the shoal.
The catch was not enough to support the needs of their families, Castorico said.
Achina and his crew said they would look for other fishing grounds.
“We will avoid returning to the shoal as much as we can if that’s what our government wants us to do,” he said. “But we’re hoping that our local officials and the national government will look into our plight and give us assistance.”
Local officials have discouraged fishermen from proceeding to Scarborough Shoal to avoid provoking the Chinese patrols.
Earlier last week, Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim said the fishermen were not barred from returning to the shoal. “[But] we don’t want anyone to get hurt or to create tension,” she said.
“For now we are asking our fishermen to stop going to the shoal until the tension eases in that area,” Lim said.
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