Chinese vessels have destroyed artificial reefs in the waters of Masinloc, Zambales meant to help local fishermen earn a living—ramming them not once but four times, a group said, as they appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for help to get compensation for them.
Last Jan. 17, HC Glory Hong Kong, a Chinese coal hauler ship, dragged and broke the rope attached to the base of a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) owned by the New Masinloc Fisherman Association, the group’s president, Leonardo Cuaresma, said in an ABS-CBN report.
But it was not the first time it happened, Cuaresma said.
“Boats have ruined our payao (reefs used for fishing) many times out at sea, but we have no solid evidence because only a few have witnessed these events. But this time (with the Chinese ship), a lot more saw what happened, a lot were fishing when it happened,” he said in Filipino in a TeleRadyo interview.
Cuaresma said at least 30 bancas manned by Filipino fishermen were at the artificial reef when the HC Glory Hong Kong destroyed it.
“This is the fourth time a ship has destroyed our projects,” he said.
Estimated damage to the reef was almost P900,000, but the ship’s captain only offered $500 (around P27,000) for the damage, Cuaresma said. Even worse, the vessel had already left the pier without paying anything, he added.
Fishermen are thus losing hope of earning a living owing to many instances of harassment by Chinese vessels, said Cuaresma, who also urged the Philippine Coast Guard to help guard local fishermen from Chinese aggression.
PCG Spokesperson Armand Balilo said he is still looking into the matter.
“A lot of our companions have been displaced from Scarborough Shoal because we have lost our fishing grounds… our municipal waters are now super crowded, but it’s the only alternative to the middle of the sea.
It’s also the only way we can earn a living,” he said.
The president of the New Masinloc Fisherman’s Association said their group wanted to bring the incident with HC Glory Hong Kong to the President’s attention.
Cuaresma was referring to the January 17, 2023 incident where a Chinese coal hauler ship dragged and broke the rope attached to the base of a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) owned by the fishermen’s association.
“The ship was still far away, but the fishermen already signaled it to adjust its course because it was headed straight for them.
Unfortunately, the vessel did not adjust and ended up dragging the fishermen’s raft until its rope was broken. According to the fishermen, if they hadn’t broken off the rope attached to the raft, they would have been dragged alongside it,” Cuaresma said during the online show The West Philippine Sea CATCH.
He added that according to fishermen who witnessed the incident, the Chinese ship’s crew didn’t do anything when the FAD was caught.
The fishermen said they sought the assistance of the Coast Guard and Bureau of Customs to “mediate” and have an audience with the captain of HC Glory Hong Kong to “explain their side,” and seek compensation for the damage incurred.
But Cuaresma said the two agencies did not let them participate in the negotiation and the compensation offered was way below their estimated damage of almost P900,000.
“When the Coast Guard and ship agent finished negotiating with the captain of the Chinese vessel, they told us that if we would agree, we would be given $500 worth of compensation for the damages that they saw,” he continued.
He said they might have reached a better deal if they were allowed to negotiate with the Chinese vessel’s crew. The incident allegedly cost the fishermen significant losses amounting to around P400,000.
“The fishermen would have taken home 2 tons worth of harvest—all gone, which would have cost around P360,000. They lost around P400,000 and they should have been earning 10 kilos worth of harvest every day but because of the incident, they lost the assurance of earning at all,” Cuaresma said.