Secretary Harry Roque with three of the fishermen who had encounters with the Chinese coast guard
MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque assured Monday, June 11, that the government has already asked China to stop its coast guard personnel from taking the fish catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.
At Malacañang, Roque presented before members of the press some of the fishermen who had encounters with the Chinese coast guard. They narrated that the Chinese would barge into their vessel and seize their catch. Since they do not know their language, the fishermen would just let them proceed to avoid tension. The Chinese men would give them some noodles and drinking water in return, and leave.
“Sila na po mismo ang aakyat. Tapos hahalungkatin iyong lagayan ng isda. Di naman kami magkakaintidihan sa pag-uusap kaya kumbaga, nakikisama na lang kami kasi baka nga paalisin na naman kami,” narrated Romel Cejuela, a fisherman from Baja Masinloc, Zambales.
Malacañang does not consider it as harassment because there was no force involved and neither party used a weapon. However, the fishermen are asking the government to take action to prevent a repeat of the incident because it affects their livelihood. In fact, the Chinese have been taking at least P4,000 worth of their income.
Roque said the government has taken steps on the matter, citing that President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to ensure freedom of Filipino fishermen to fish in the waters of Scarborough Shoal.
“Gumawa na kami ng mga hakbang, at ang hinihingi natin dapat gumalaw ang mga otoridad ng Tsina na itigil itong mga pangyayari. So kinakailangan, disiplinahin siguro ng Tsina yung mga bugok na nangunguha ng isda,” Roque said.
However, if they were to be asked, local fishermen would prefer that Philippine Coast Guard or Navy personnel should withdraw their presence in Scarborough Shoal to avoid the tension from further escalating.
“Siguro ok na muna siguro yun [walang coastguard]habang patuloy munang nag-uusap yung gobyerno ng Pilipinas at China para maayos yung mga dapat ayusin siguro,” added Cejuela.
“Mula po ng panahon na pinadala ni Presidente Aquino ang (BRP) Del Pilar diyan sa Scarborough, di na po tayo nakabalik na tayo ang may control (diyan.) Ngayon po, totoo po na nandoon ang mga Tsino pero nakakapangisda po ang mga mangingisda ng Masinloc at ibang mga lugar,” Roque said in agreement to the fishermen’s proposal. – Rosalie Coz / Marje Pelayo