News / Asia

Philippines Fishermen Leery of Entering Contested Waters

Macario Sepulveda, captain of the Prince John Paul fishing vessel, says his ship does do not go closer than a 55-kilometer radius from the Scarborough Shoal, March 24, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Macario Sepulveda, captain of the Prince John Paul fishing vessel, says his ship does do not go closer than a 55-kilometer radius from the Scarborough Shoal, March 24, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Simone Orendain
Almost two years ago ships from China and the Phillipines held a months-long standoff at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.  This week, some local fishermen are still staying away.  The issue remains heated in the days leading up to the deadline for the Philippines to file pleadings in its international arbitration case against China over the contested waters. 
 
Macario Sepulveda has been fishing in the South China Sea for more than 30 years.  He says the vessel he captains used to go to Scarborough Shoal regularly until about two years ago.
 
Sepulveda says the smaller survey boats that communicate with the mother ship about the most abundant areas next to the shoal are being driven away by Chinese surveillance ships.
 
“Whenever we would take home our catch, the light boat would be left behind in the middle of the sea.  And if the water got choppy they were able to get inside the shoal and take shelter.  Now they can’t," he explains.

 
Spratly Islands, China Sea Territorial ClaimsSpratly Islands, China Sea Territorial Claims
x
Spratly Islands, China Sea Territorial Claims
Spratly Islands, China Sea Territorial Claims
According to Sepulveda, the area surrounding the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, is fraught with choppy waves that can easily whip around smaller boats.  Now, he says the vessels do not go beyond 55 kilometers outside the shoal, which has significantly reduced their catch from that area.
 
Masinloc town’s fishery officer Jerry Escape says 10 fishing teams used to go out to Scarborough Shoal, which is 225 kilometers west of the town.  Now he says just three ships can afford to make the trip.
 
“The problem is their expenses when they go there is too big.  Since they spent that much, they feel that they are very poor when they go back here without anything to sell,” he says, adding that a one-week fishing trip can run about $2,000.  A typical catch, he says, is one ton and the fish can sell for between $2.20 and $3.30 per kilo.
 
According to Escape, fishing is one of three main industries in the town, and the local government is trying to remedy the dilemma by putting up fish habitats closer to shore.
 
The Philippine government maintains that the shoal is well within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, in accordance with international law.  But China, which calls it Huangyan, says it has “indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea Islands and their adjacent waters, Huangyan Island included.”
 
  • These small fishing boats do not go too far from shore in the South China Sea, Masinloc, Zambales Province, Philippines, March 24, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
  • Commander Rojelio Casupang heads this Philippine Coast Guard office along the South China Sea coast, Masinloc, Zambales Province, March 24, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
  • Macario Sepulveda, captain of the Prince John Paul fishing vessel, says his ship does do not go closer than a 55-kilometer radius from the Scarborough Shoal, March 24, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
  • The Prince John Paul used to go to Scarborough Shoal regularly but it has not been able to since a 2012 standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships took place there, Masinloc, Zambales Province, March 24, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have partial or total claims in the sea, which has abundant fish stocks, is a major trade route and is believed to hold vast hydrocarbon reserves.  In recent years, China has stepped up policing of these waters.
 
In late January, fishermen from Masinloc reported to the Philippines military that a Chinese surveillance ship used a water cannon to drive them away.  Manila lodged a protest with Beijing over the incident.
 
A month later, China’s Foreign Ministry said it had driven back some vessels from the Philippines bringing what it says were construction materials to Second Thomas Shoal, another contested formation in the sea, just west of Palawan province.  The Philippines sent another protest, maintaining it was well within its rights to send provisions to its military personnel stationed at the shoal.
 
In January of 2013, the Philippines filed an international arbitration case over what it calls China’s “excessive” claims to practically the entire South China Sea.  China, which bases its claim on ancient maps, rejects the filing and has not responded to it.  The government is submitting supporting materials to the tribunal this week.
 
In its case, the Philippines raises the question of whether rocks and submerged features, which it says are part of its continental shelf, can be claimed by anyone else.  
 
Scarborough Shoal is among its list of rocks.
 
In May 2013 the Philippines Coast Guard set up an office in Masinloc, which covers a 50-kilometer stretch from north to south of small fishing towns. 
 
“My task is to advice the fishermen," explains Rojelio Casupang, the commander of the substation. He says for now while the issue is still too heated, they tell fishermen not to go out to Scarborough so they can avoid any confrontations.
 
Masinloc’s Mayor Desiree Edora says the presence of the coast guard has helped give some fishermen peace of mind, and that she hopes the dispute between the two countries will have a peaceful outcome and will result in mutual respect.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Donsimon from: Princeton nj
March 26, 2014 3:55 PM
Please do not quote catch in tons and selling price in $/kg. it is difficult to do the numbers in my head? Sophomoric reporting.

In Response

by: Kehinde philip from: Nigeria
March 30, 2014 4:30 PM
Aba, things of this world that come today and will end tomorrow. Does it mean reach China wealthy Chana can not somethinp for poor Philipine to survive, well if China is individual person we surpose check his brian maybe there is problem.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid