While it imposes a fishing blockade in the West Philippine Sea, China has become the country’s biggest source of imported fish, some of which was poached from Philippine waters, Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto said Monday.
In a statement, Recto said China has cordoned off Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), claiming it as a backyard fishpond and declaring it off-limits to its true owners — Filipinos.
“Some of the fish it feeds its 1.412 billion citizens are poached from Philippine waters, vacuum-cleaned from our rich reefs,” Recto said. “The value of this stolen fish is in the billions of pesos, not annually, but monthly.”
“China must be called out for what it is really doing in the WPS: a food blockade that is a crime against humanity,” the Batangas solon and former senator said.
“By cutting our access to a major protein source, China is playing a different kind of hunger games, making fish scarce for us, while satiating its people’s large appetite for seafood,” he said.
Rector accused Chinese fishing militias of pulling off the “great ocean robbery” by harassing Filipino boats and ships and by harvesting the bounty of the seas—both done in an illegal and dangerous manner.
Because of this Chinese blockade, the share of the Philippines’ fish catch in the WPS has dwindled to 7 percent of total national fisheries production, Recto said, citing statistics from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
“Chinese constriction of the WPS cripples a pillar of our food security, as that area contributes almost 30 percent of commercial fisheries output,” he said. “And as we grapple with a fish shortage, partly due to the fact that our access to WPS has been denied, we resort to imports. And the painful irony is that we buy fish from China – the very source of our discontent.”
By value, China is the number one source of imported fish, accounting for a third, valued at $247 million or about P12.145 billion in 2021.
He called the Chinese sale of fish illegally taken from the Philippines the “worst kind of fish migration.”
Asked for comment, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources confirmed that China is the biggest source of the country’s fishery imports.
In its latest Fisheries Profile, BFAR said of the 533,235 metric tons (MT) of fish and marine products worth P36.89 billion imported by the Philippines in 2021, 158,088 MT worth P12.14 billion came from China.
“Out of 533,235 MT of imported fish and fish products, 73.29 percent originated from China, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Japan and Thailand,” BFAR said.
China was also the biggest source of mackerel, amounting to 28,645 MT worth P2.53 billion in 2021.
The Philippines also bought sardines and prawn feeds from China.
Meanwhile, China was the third largest buyer of fish exports from the Philippines after the United States and Japan.
In 2021, the Philippines exported 48,886 MT of fish/marine products worth P5.94 billion.
The Philippines remained a net exporter of fishery products despite the rising imports, the agency said.
“The value of exported fish and fishery products amounted to $1.1 billion while the cost of imported fish and fishery products was $750 million,” BFAR said.
In another report, BFAR said fish catch from the wild has been slowly declining as aquaculture’s share of total fisheries production increased to more than 54 percent in 2022, overtaking not only commercial but also municipal fisheries.