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

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition 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.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs