“It’s not only the problem of my town; it’s the problem of the entire country”
By Mortz C. Ortigoza
MASINLOC, Zambales – The presence of Mainland Chinese in the West Philippine Sea is not only the problem of the fisher folks here but the people of the Philippines,’ declared by this coastal town Mayor Desiree Edora.
|BLOCKED. Mainland Chinese Coast Guard Cutter blocked in 2014 the path of the |
Philippine boat that would supply provision to a Marine detachment embedded in a
dilapidated World War 11 era ship at Second Thomas Shoal.
She said those fishermen chased by the motor boats of the Chinese Navy are not only from here but fishermen from Sual, Bolinao, and other towns of Pangasinan.
She said the aqua rich Bajo de Masinloc in Scarborough Shoal where the Chinese Navy has strong presence is 15 to 18 hours ride in a small boat in fair weather from here.
The water around the Bajo de Masinloc (Under Masinloc in English), she stressed, has been the bread and butter of more than 2000 fisher folks here.
This town has 47,000 populations.
Edora said the stand-off with the Chinese, who travelled 467 miles from Mainland China, started in 2012.
Fishermen here have been reporting to Edora sightings not only of the Chinese but Vietnamese trawl fishers who exploit the water of Scarborough Shoal, a part of this town since the time of the Philippines Spanish colonizer in the 18th Century.
The Shoal is only 123 miles of West Subic Bay – a former U.S Naval Base.
“Bajo de Masinloc, that name, has been written on the old maps,” she said.
|UNDERSIEGE VS. THE CHINESE. Author and|
Masinloc, Zambales Mayor Desiree Edora
According to Wikipidia several official Philippine maps published by Spain and United States in 18th and 20th centuries show Scarborough Shoal as Philippine territory. The 18th-century map "Carta hydrographica y chorographica de las Islas Filipinas" (1734) shows the Shoal then was named as Panacot Shoal. The map also shows the shape of the shoal as consistent with the current maps available as today. In 1792, another map drawn by the Malaspina expedition and published in 1808 in Madrid, Spain also showed Bajo de Masinloc as part of Philippine territory. The map showed the route of the Malaspina expedition to and around the shoal. It was reproduced in the Atlas of the 1939 Philippine Census, which was published in Manila a year later and predates the controversial 1947 Chinese South China Sea Claim Map that shows no Chinese name on it. Another topographic map drawn in 1820 shows the Shoal, named there as "Bajo Scarburo," as a constituent part of Sambalez (Zambales province).] During the 1900s, Mapa General, Islas Filipinas, Observatorio de Manila, and US Coast and Geodetic Survey Map include the Scarborough Shoal named as "Baju De Masinloc
The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines also claims that the name Bajo de Masinloc (translated as "under Masinloc") it identifies the shoal as a particular political subdivision of the Philippine Province of Zambales, known as Masinloc.
Dora said her fishermen told her that the Vietnamese got powerful search lights.
“Actually hindi lang naman sa Zambales iyan, sa buong Pilipinas iyan. Kahit diyan sa Infanta, Sual, Bolinao”, she said in Filipino.
Bajo de Masinloc has been claimed by China based on its Nine-Dotted Map. It refers to the demarcation line used initially by the government of the Republic of China (ROC / Taiwan), and subsequently also by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC), for their claims of the major part of the South China Sea (SCS).The contested area in the SCS includes the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands, and various other areas including the Pratas Islands, the Macclesfield Bankand the Scarborough Shoal.
By Henry Empeño / Correspondent
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Zambales residents on Friday demanded more resolute action on the part of the Philippine government to defend its claim on islands, reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), particularly Bajo de Masinloc, which serves as a rich fishing ground for local fishermen.
In a multisectoral forum sponsored by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the Philippine Information Agency at the Mansion Garden Hotel in this free port, residents contended that the Philippines does not back up its territorial claims with a more convincing gesture to the detriment of local fishers.
They said that Chinese fishermen and Coast Guard vessels have literally annexed Bajo de Masinloc, or Scarborough Shoal, which is just 124 nautical miles away from Zambales, yet the government has thus far failed to assert its claim over the area.
“Our fishermen are already dying while trying to earn a living from our resources in the West Philippine Sea. The Chinese destroy their boats, their equipment and their catch; their children are already crying, and what is the government doing about it?” bewailed Laureano Artagame, chairman of the Subic Bay Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (Subic IFARMC). “Why can’t the government defend Scarborough, with bolos and spears, if it has to?”
The forum served as briefing on what the Philippine government has done on the increasing aggressiveness of China in exercising its so-called indisputable sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea (SCS).
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, who gave a briefing on the issue, said the Philippine government treats the WPS/SCS issue a matter of national interest because, if left unchallenged, the Philippines could lose up to 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
However, he added that while the Philippines condemns China’s aggressive behavior, and that President Aquino has officially put the government’s position at “What is ours is ours,” the government still seeks a peaceful settlement of the disputes and abides by the primacy of the rule of law.
He also clarified that even with the United States making its presence felt in the area and questioning China’s expansive nine-dash line, it does so only because of the threat to freedom of navigation and commerce in the area.
“In the end, we have to rely only on ourselves; nobody can help us but ourselves,” Jose said.
Jose also said the government has filed a case in 2013 for arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and that it expects to make oral arguments this July.
“The solution over time is arbitration. And if we win, China won’t have any basis in occupying anything within our EEZ,” Jose added.
Residents here, however, brushed off the government’s focus on legal arbitration and diplomatic negotiation, saying that these were ineffective in protecting the rights of Zambaleños to fish and make a living.
Their sentiment about the seeming inaction of the Philippine government on the plight of local fishermen was heightened when Artagame asked that a videotape of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel bombarding Zambales fishermen with water at Scarborough be shown.
The unedited film clip, taken by Subic fisherman Johnny Logo two months ago with a phone camera, was peppered with expletives as he witnessed the Chinese brutality.
“What is the Philippines doing to back its position of what is ours is ours,” demanded Vic Vizcocho, editor of a community newspaper here. “Maybe it’s about time that we consider making a national sacrifice of sending soldiers to the disputed shoal to guard and defend what is ours.”
“What is really President Aquino’s agenda? What is it that he is so aggressive regarding the BBL [Bangsamoro basic law] when he is so passive on the issue of the West Philippine Sea?” a teacher from a local college wondered aloud.
Jaime Mendoza Jr., who works with a port logistics company in this free port, also asked government representatives in the forum why the government cannot make a stronger defense posture.
“What China is doing is a clear case of aggression, yet why are we restricting ourselves to discussions on diplomatic actions? China is apparently gearing up for war. Yet why is it that we are speaking here as if talking about war is taboo?” Mendoza added.