Sen. ‘Tol’ to Pinoy fishers sailing in WPS: Be careful

June 17, 2024 People's Journal 94 views

SENATOR Francis “Tol” Tolentino told Filipino fishermen to exerciseEE precautions as they sail to fish in their traditional fishing grounds, the day China said it would start arresting and detaining fishermen for 60 days without trial when caught within its claimed territory that covers Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Tolentino said Filipino law enforcers used to patrol Bajo de Masinloc, where many foreign fishermen, including Chinese and Vietnamese, were arrested for illegal poaching since it had always been a territory and traditional fishing grounds of the Philippines.

“And now it is the other way around. We will be detained for 60 days without trial. Yesterday, I had a meeting with Secretary Manalo of the Department of Foreign Affairs, that if the Chinese arrest and detain Filipino fishermen, this will be the highest level of aggression against us,” he said.

Tolentino, Senate chairman of the Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, said it is not clear where the Chinese would bring the arrested Filipino fishermen, whether in their ship or China, for detention if they made true their threats

Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim of Zambales province, where most fishermen fish in Bajo de Masinloc, said in a separate statement that she had advised the fishermen from her town to avoid areas where they would likely face danger.

Lim said the fishermen from Masinloc town had suffered the most, with more than half of their previous catch gone because of China’s threat to enforce its supposed domestic law on the South China Sea (SCS) by detaining for 60 days without trial fishermen caught in its claimed territory.

She said the folks who invested in payao (fish aggregating device) could not recoup their capital of at least P100,000 for each payao deployed in the traditional fishing areas at the Bajo de Masinloc.

Tolentino reiterated, however, that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) encourage Filipino fishermen to continue fishing and assert their rights over the fishing grounds in the WPS.