Group says Chinese fishermen harvesting corals, clams in shoal for a decade now
MANILA, Philippines — Suspected Chinese fishermen have been continuously harvesting corals and giant clams in Scarborough Shoal for more than a decade now, the leader of fishers’ confederation in the area revealed on Monday.
This activity began since 2012 and has been ongoing ever since, according to Leonardo Cuaresma, President of the New Masinloc Fishermen’s Association.
It was also in 2012 when the Philippines and China had a standoff over the shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.
“Mula pa po noong 2012 ‘yan ay ginagawa na nila. Kaya nung standoff, totally sila na lang ang nakikinabang diyan at wala nang ibang nakakagalaw diyan maliban sa kanila,” Cuaresma said in a phone interview with reporters.
(They have been doing that since 2012. So since the standoff, they were the only ones benefiting from that; no one could explore that area except them.)
“Mula pa nang matigil ang pangingisda sa lugar, ang mga Chinese fishermen diyan ay patuloy na winawasak ang coral natin at pinagkukuha po ang giant clams, shells ng giant clams sa lugar.
(Since the fishing activities stopped in the area, the Chinese fisherman has been continuously destroying our corals, while they also harvested our giant clams as well as the shells of the giant clams.)
Cuaresma also noted that the number of giant clams in the area are now depleted, while a great number of corals were also crushed.
“Base sa reports ng ating mga kasamahan na pumupunta diyan, mga maninisid natin na kasama, talagang madalang na ang giant clams na nakikita nila; hindi na ganoon dati na makapal ang giant clams. Ngayon, wala na halos makitang giant clams,” Cuaresma said.
(Based on the reports of the members who dived the area, the giant clams in the area has been reduced, unlike before when the giant clams were concentrated. Now, there were almost no giant clams.)
“Kung makita natin ang sitwasyon sa kasalukuyan, ang Bajo de Masinloc talagang marami ang nadurog na corals,” he added.
(When we see the current situation, many of the corals in Bajo de Masinloc has been crushed.)
He also urged the government to swiftly act on this incident: “Kung ganito ang nangyayari sa atin, panahon na para gumawa ng hakbang.”
(If this situation continues to happen, it’s now time to make a step.)
The shoal hogged the headlines again when China Coast Guard on September 22 installed a floating barrier in the area measuring approximately 300 meters long, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
The government vowed to take all “appropriate actions” to remove the barrier laid in the area, asserting that it violates the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The arbitral ruling invalidated Beijing’s claim over almost the entire South China Sea with overlapping areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.