Progressive fishers set sail in West Philippine Sea amid China ban

Progressive fishers set sail in West Philippine Sea amid China’s ban

/ 04:34 PM May 30, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Progressive fisher groups on Thursday led a fishing expedition to Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea amid China’s unilateral fishing ban encroaching on the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Progressive group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said about 20 fishing boats with 40 fisherfolk aboard from Masinloc, Zambales began sailing at about 4:00 p.m.

Before this, a send-off mass was conducted.


“This is a demonstration of fisherfolk’s opposition to China’s baseless fishing ban that will cover our territory,” said Joey Marabe, Pamalakaya-Zambales Provincial Coordinator, in a statement.


Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said that the mission aims to advance the “complete demilitarization” of the West Philippine Sea, noting that they are not being escorted by navy warships and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels.

The sail will end on Saturday, May 31, which coincides with National Fisherfolk Day also held on the same day.

Beijing’s fishing moratorium in the South China Sea, which outright disregards Manila’s sovereign rights in the western section of its EEZ, started on May 1, 2024, lasting until September 16, 2024.

But Leonardo Cuaresma, president of the Zambales-based New Masinloc Fishermen Association said on Monday that their boats continue to sail in the West Philippine Sea even during this intrusive fishing ban.

READ: Life goes on for local fishers amid China ban 

No Filipinos have been arrested since this revised fishing moratorium was first implemented in 2021, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, also confirmed on Wednesday.


Since 1999, Beijing has imposed a yearly fishing ban in the vast South China Sea. However, in 2021, it adjusted the seasonal marine fishing moratorium in the South China Sea north of the 12 degrees north latitude to define the fishing ban area, now clearly including parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Last May 15, civilian group Atin Ito also conducted a mission for Panatag Shoal.

However, the mother boat of the Atin Ito convoy, where was aboard, was blocked by three China Coast Guard vessels from entering the 12 nautical mile (NM) area of Panatag Shoal, only coming as close as 50 NM away from the atoll.

READ: Chinese ships block convoy’s mother boat from reaching Scarborough

PCG previously flagged the huge deployment of CCG vessels during the civilian mission and called it an “overkill.”

In 2012, China seized control of Scarborough Shoal’s lagoon after its coast guard’s standoff with Philippine vessels.

This move was in line 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 that stemmed from a case filed by Manila in 2013.

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

READ: China’s new trespassing rule is illegal, illegitimate — experts

However, China does not recognize this ruling.

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Furthermore, China released a unilateral anti-trespassing policy in the South China Sea, which encroaches most of the West Philippine Sea, coinciding with the civilian mission in Panatag Shoal, according to a South China Morning Post report.

TAGS: Fisherfolk, fishermen, Panatag Shoal, Scarborough Shoal

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