- The ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration between the territorial dispute of the Philippines and China will be released later today
- Fishermen from Subic, Zambales still attempt to fish on Panatag Shoal, despite Chinese coast guards still monitoring the area
- Local authorities have created an artificial fish shelter as an alternative fishing ground for these fishermen
Despite the looming announcement of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling regarding the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, fishermen from Subic, Zambales have decided to tread cautiously towards disputed waters to improve their livelihood.
It has been reported that five Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been guarding the shoal where these fishermen attempted to fish.
(photo credit: globalnation.inquirer.net)
30-year-old Ener Anota, one of the fishermen, said that he and his colleagues were afraid of the Chinese coast guards as their numbers keep on increasing every time they attempt to get close to the shoal. He also reported that the coast guards keep on guarding the shoal tirelessly.
However, there were also instances that they have been given the permission to fish for a number of days. Anota remembered that one of the Chinese coast guards told him that he could only fish for three days and he had to return to the Philippines afterwards.
Today marks The Hague’s ruling on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, which will be released later in the afternoon. It has been known that the Philippines questioned China’s claims in the South China Sea, to which the East Asian country rebutted that they owned 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer territory, including the waters within the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the neighboring countries.
This, in turn, has caused them their relationship with other Asian countries whose territories were also affected, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and many others.
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One of the territories that the Philippines and China have fought over is the Panatag Shoal, which is 230 km from the coastlines of Zambales province and still lies within the country’s EEZ. The shoal is known for being a rich fishing ground and has been claimed by China for over four years.
(photo credit: businessinsider.com)
“We can’t tell for sure if those Chinese patrols will leave us alone once the UN ruling is out. We’re hoping that our government will send its own patrols to protect us,” Anota said.
If the dispute remains, Anota and his fellow fishermen claimed that they would not fish near or on the shoal’s waters. He exclaimed that if the situation got worse after the ruling, they would just find another area to fish. However, he remains hopeful that the Chinese coast guards could still let them fish freely along the shoal.
According to Laureano Artagame, head of the municipal fishing vessel registry unit, there are around 2,000 fishermen from Subic who make frequent trips to fish on the shoal.
Artagame, who also serves as the chairman of the fisheries and aquatic resources management council of Subic, stated that he was keen to find out how the Duterte administration will address the territorial dispute with China.
“If our government has the political will, we would be able to take back the shoal from China, now that many countries are ready to help us,” he said.
Local fishermen have also set their eyes on how the government would take action once the ruling will be released later.
Right now, Artagame said that he is willing to help the fishermen who almost risked their lives for their livelihood. Through the newly-implanted artificial fish shelters, Artagame hoped that these fishermen would consider them as alternative fishing grounds.