News / Asia

South China Sea Fishermen Caught in Political Net

Daniel Schearf
MASINLOC, ZAMBALES, Philippines - The stand-off between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea is not just about disputed oil-rich territory.  It is also about fish and other aquatic resources that are increasingly scarce. As politicians attempt to resolve the conflict, fishermen from both sides, trying to make a living, are caught in the middle.   

As a storm approaches, Filipino fishermen in Masinloc work together to pull their boats out of the water.
 
About 2,000 families here depend on the sea to make a living, but the spat with China at rich fishing grounds in the Scarborough Shoals has taken a toll on their income.
 
Miguel Bitana says in just a few days at the disputed Shoals he could earn what took him a week or more fishing in local waters.

“There really is a depletion of fish," said Bitana. "It's getting scarcer. That's also one thing that makes us feel bad, that fishing is banned in there but why are the Chinese still fishing there?  Why is it that we Filipinos are not allowed to even go there?”
 
  • A fish market in Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines. (D. Schearf/VOA)
  • A fish market in Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines. (D. Schearf/VOA)
  • Fishermen in Masinloc. (D. Schearf/VOA)
  • Some fishermen go to the rich, but disputed, fishing grounds around the Scarborough Shoals. (D. Schearf/VOA)
(View Photo Gallery)
Meanwhile, declining fish stocks around Hong Kong waters have forced fishermen there to venture further into disputed territories, risking conflict and confrontation.
 
Pang Wah-kan is Chairman of the Joint Committee of Hong Kong Fishermen’s organizations.  

“We started fishing in the South China Sea in the 1960s," said  From then on, several cases are reported that Filipino authorities detained our fishermen and ships and fined them.  Some were detained and even confiscated by Malaysian authorities as well.”
 
The stand-off started in April when a Philippines Navy ship tried to arrest Chinese fishermen for allegedly harvesting endangered species of sharks and coral.
 
Chinese surveillance boats intervened and the two sides have since engaged in a war of words.

Nestor Daet is head of a Masinloc fishermen’s watch group that monitors for illegal fishing.  
 
“I think our government sent about two ships, four? And the other are Philippines coast guard, I think," said Daet. "But, compared to the Naval ships of Chinese we are no match. It's like David and Goliath.”

Fishermen on both sides say their governments need to come to an agreement so they can all make a living.  
 
“We should help each other to protect our seas so that ...we can return the stocks, the fish stocks of the sea,” said Jerry Escape, an officer with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Masinloc.
 
Despite the stand-off, fishermen here say relations with Chinese fishermen have always been so friendly that in the past they would often barter with each other when fishing far from shore.
 
They hope that tradition continues next fishing season at the disputed Scarborough Shoals.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
June 20, 2012 10:14 AM
@hoang, really? The bigger they are the harder they fall? Then how hard USA gonna fall? Yeah keep dreaming!
Now china is sending woman to the space, building aircraft carriers, nuclear Subs, stealth fighters, and economy is growing fast. Seems China would be the last country that falls.

by: Hoang from: Canada
June 19, 2012 7:15 AM
Jonathan Huang,
The bigger they are(China) the harder they fall.

by: Nonoy from: Malacanang
June 18, 2012 10:05 PM
Do not be afraid.

by: @ Peter from: Nguyễn
June 17, 2012 2:53 PM
Your good idea has been presented at some international meeting but greedy Chinese rejected. China wants the whole pie without sharing one small piece to any body in the region.

by: enrique dela cruz from: philippines
June 16, 2012 9:31 AM
A fighter jet had been monitored in the disputed shoal. Does it mean there is an aircraft carrier somewhere near the area?

by: Jonathan Huang from: Canada
June 14, 2012 2:24 PM
By the way, no need to worry about Chinese fishmen, they are happy now. Communist party pay them for fishing in South China sea and they are safe now with the protection of big gun ship from the harasses of Viets and Finos. All Chinese can feel the proud as China becomes powerful.

by: Jonathan Huang from: Canada
June 14, 2012 2:15 PM
I don't see any problems that Communist party try to protect the very Chinese interests.
You may hear more noice recently, just because China is getting stronger, finally in a century, and she can do what she was not capable to do before.

by: Cả Thộn from: Hà Nội
June 14, 2012 10:13 AM
Philippinos must find a way to unite all 10 ASEAN countries into one solid defense bloc against Chinese expansionist policy or China will take over whatever they want.

by: Morgan from: CHina
June 14, 2012 1:13 AM
don't worry about chinese government,they are afraid of any tiny cause of domestic unstability,what the they can do is just keep making denounce

by: Lennie from: New Jersey USA
June 13, 2012 10:42 PM
China is at it again. It is a numbers game, and when a situation gets out of hand, they send in Big Brother observers? Today it is fishing rights, or sharing fishung grounds. Wait to the mainland lands troops and ships in Taiwan; Not that the Thai's really care. Americans should not get involved in that situation, but where is the voice of protest against the Chinese in regard to the fishing incodent?
Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs