Filipino Fisherfolk Defy China’s Fish Ban and “Trespass Rule” with Protest Action and Collective Fishing Expedition in the West Philippine Sea

Filipino Fisherfolk Defy China’s Fish Ban and “Trespass Rule” with Protest Action and Collective Fishing Expedition in the West Philippine Sea

Masinloc, Zambales—In a show of unity, fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales, alongside various organizations led by the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), recently embarked on a collective fishing expedition in the West Philippine Sea. The expedition, held from May 30 to 31, 2024, coincided with National Fisherfolks Day and aimed to protest China’s fishing ban in Philippine territory while advocating for the demilitarization of the West Philippine Sea.

According to PAMALAKAYA, the activity was successful in demonstrating the rights to fishing and the sovereignty of the nation. They emphasized that the expedition proceeded without any escort from navy warships or the Philippine Coast Guard. Approximately 20 boats and 40 fishermen sailed and fished up to 10 nautical miles from the coast of Luzon, despite originally planning to venture farther, up to 20-30 nautical miles, due to high waves.

China’s fishing ban in the South China Sea started from May 1 to September 16 of that year, which also covered parts of the West Philippine Sea. Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been known to apprehend Filipino fishermen even within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

International legal frameworks, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award favoring the Philippines, underscore China’s obligations on the West Philippine Sea’s resources and territorial integrity.

Criticism was directed at the Marcos Jr. administration by Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas, who lamented inadequate protection for fishermen against persistent Chinese harassment. Brosas added that the US uses this situation as a reason to increase its military presence in the country to strengthen its influence and dominance.

“Totally initiated by Filipino small fishers and their patriotic advocates, our fishing expedition attests that we can assert our territorial waters without relying on any foreign superpower, more so to provocative militaristic solutions,” said Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson.

The collective fishing expedition underscores ongoing tensions in the West Philippine Sea, where local stakeholders assert their rights against external pressures, navigating complex geopolitical waters to secure their fishing livelihoods and territorial integrity.

The group, on June 14, also held a protest action against Beijing’s “trespass rule” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). “Similar to our defiance against China’s unjust fishing ban in the South China Sea, we will resist its order to arrest alleged trespassers on our territorial fishing grounds. The four-month fishing ban accompanied by a ‘trespass rule’ has no legal, political, or moral basis,” said Joey Marabe, Pamalakaya Zambales coordinator.

According to Pamalakaya records, fishermen’s income has plummeted by 80% due to Beijing’s military presence and harmful fishing practices in Philippine waters.

PAMALAKAYA National Vice Chairperson Ronnel Arambulo clarified that Filipino fishermen will continue to fish in the West Philippine Sea to support their families despite harassment from China. Arambulo also stressed the importance of prioritizing the demilitarization of traditional fishing grounds./PT


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