Scarborough fisherman recounts encounter with China

‘Threatened with guns’: Panatag fisher recounts encounter with China

/ 05:30 PM May 15, 2024

‘They point guns at us’: Panatag fisher recounts encounter with China

JR Sarmiento Hilig | Photo by John Eric Mendoza/INQUIRER.net

ABOARD FBCA BING BING, West Philippine Sea — “You don’t get threatened with fists but with guns.”

A fisherman who recently returned from Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal had this to say in Filipino of China Coast Guard personnel as he recounted his group’s encounter with them in the sandbank’s vicinity waters.

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JR Sarmiento Hilig, 37, shared this story with INQUIRER.net on Wednesday as he boarded this vessel to receive the aid given by the Atin Ito coalition as part of its civilian resupply mission.

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The Atin Ito coalition began laying down its symbolic markers at around noon in the West Philippine Sea.

The aid distribution also followed as they encountered several fishermen, including Hilig, who were waiting for the aid.

READ: ‘Hope for best, prepared for worst’: Scarborough civilian convoy starts

‘Go home, Philippines’

“Fishermen going to Scarborough Shoal are pitiful, being driven away like animals. You don’t get threatened with fists but with guns” Helig said in Filipino.

He said this happened on Monday while they were taking shelter.

China seized control of Scarborough Shoal’s lagoon in 2012 after a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) standoff with Philippine vessels.

“A Chinese Coast Guard [ship] passed by and sounded its horn 10 times at us. After a while, it lowered a rubber boat and told us we were banned from going there because we didn’t have a permit from them allowing us to fish there,” he continued.

Their actions align with Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, even if such a claim has been effectively invalidated by a July 2016 international tribunal ruling from a case filed by Manila in 2013.

READ: China sending huge force in Scarborough ahead of civilian mission — expert

This landmark decision also included Scarborough Shoal, which was declared a traditional fishing ground that should be shared by the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

Hilig said his group had no choice but to return to Zambales.

“‘Go home, go home, Philippines,’ they told us. Of course, we had really no way of fighting back. So we just went home to avoid getting hurt,” he said.

Huge loss

The fisherfolk said his group had to spend P250,000 on diesel for this expedition, but they only managed to take home P40,000 worth of catch.

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Normally, Hilig said his group could take P350,000 to P400,000 worth of catch.

“We lost money. Even just groceries, that’s all we could carry home to our families. We really didn’t make any profit,” he said.

TAGS: China, Philippines, Scarborough Shoal, West Philippine Sea

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