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A plundering neighbor

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An association of small fishers has urged government to take immediate action against Chinese fishermen engaged in illegal poaching activities in the West Philippine Sea, to prevent the continued plunder of the country’s marine resources.

According to the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), the amended Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 prohibits any foreign entity from fishing or operating any fishing vessel in Philippine waters, and they criticized the government’s inaction in that regard, as under the law, the entry of any foreign fishing vessel in Philippine waters constitutes a prima facie presumption of illegal fishing activity.

“There should be no exceptions or delays. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources should immediately confront and file charges against all Chinese fishing vessel personnel found in the West Philippine Sea,” PAMALAKAYA national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.

The group stressed that regular patrols in Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag Shoal, announced by BFAR are already too late to address the extensive damage caused by Chinese fishers, such as the destruction of coral reefs and depletion of fish stocks.

Over the weekend, BFAR revealed that Chinese fishers have been using cyanide to “intentionally destroy” Bajo de Masinloc and prevent Filipino fisherfolk from entering their own traditional fishing grounds. The estimated damage from such destructive actions could exceed P1 billion.

PAMALAKAYA said Filipino fishers have long reported China’s use of cyanide, but government has “taken no action to stop the destruction of the Philippine fisheries.”

“Filipino fishermen are willing to collaborate with citizens of other countries asserting their rights in the South China Sea against the encroachment and plundering of any powerful country like China,” Hicap said.

The question is: is their government willing to do the same to protect its own natural resources that are either being plundered or intentionally and maliciously destroyed by the region’s bully? How much more territory and resources are we going to lose until enough is enough?*

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