Philippine Daily Inquirer
PH fishermen put up fight vs China
SUBIC, Zambales—Filipino fishermen last week fought off a Chinese Coast Guard vessel that was driving them away from the Scarborough Shoal, according to a crew member of a fishing vessel that had just arrived from the shoal.
The crew of FB Leslie May struck the approaching rubber boat deployed by the Chinese on April 15 after the Chinese patrol threatened to cut off the vessel’s anchor, said Joely Saligan, 36, a fisherman from Barangay Calapandayan here.
The Filipinos were fishing near the shoal around 9 a.m. on April 15 when the Chinese chanced upon them.
“Their rubber boat was damaged and they immediately left us there. At that instance, we knew they called for backup,” Saligan told the INQUIRER on Saturday.
Saligan, who was tasked with managing the engine of FB Leslie May, said the rubber boat returned, escorted by a Chinese Coast Guard ship. One of the ship’s crew members ordered the Filipinos to leave the shoal, he said.
The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Masinloc town, Zambales province, well within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone.
It is also known to residents of this coastal town as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
“Philippines go away! Go home!” Saligan said, quoting one of the Chinese coast guards.
Instead of leaving, Saligan said they turned to the other Filipino fishermen who were in the area.
“We wanted to gather together as a show of force but it enraged the Chinese coast guard,” Saligan recounted.
He said several Chinese vessels also chased 11 other Filipino fishing boats, each carrying nine or 10 fishermen.
“The chase lasted for about five hours. They (Chinese coast guards) only stopped and left us when it was almost dark,” Saligan said.
He said the Chinese carried long firearms.
“Despite that, we will remain resolute. We’re not doing anything illegal so we will continue to insist on our rights to fish around the shoal,” he said.
The shoal also serves as a midsea refuge for fishing boats during stormy weather at sea. It used to be a free zone for local fishermen until the Chinese began patrolling the area in 2012.
Another fisherman, Junmar Pumicpic, 25, captain of FB Bubhoy, said they had no plans to avoid Panatag Shoal despite the increased presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels there.
Pumicpic and his crew left this town on Friday for another monthlong trip back to the Scarborough Shoal.
On March 5, Pumicpic’s boat was damaged when it was rammed by a Chinese Coast Guard rubber boat that carried three uniformed men.
In the past several months, Filipino fishermen stood their ground and showed no fear as they faced the Chinese, Pumicpic said.