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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid