Filipino Fishermen Battle Weather, Chinese Incursion in South China Sea

Jason Gutierrez, Luis Liwanag and Jojo Rinoza
2019.09.10
Masinloc, Philippines
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A Philippine fisherman makes repairs to his boat in Matalvis, a fishing village in Masinloc town, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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Fishermen in Matalvis check their nets and other gear, while others in the water check the hulls of their boats, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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A young fisherman prepares to drop a line baited with a minnow while waiting for a storm to break, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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A captain keeps a statue of the Virgin Mary in his boat’s pilot house, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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Matalvis residents go on with their daily lives where many fishermen have been forced to find other sources of income, because, they say, they have been barred by the Chinese Coast Guard from the Scarborough Shoal fishing grounds, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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A young boy frolics near the shore of a fishing village in Masinloc, a town in the northern Philippines that sits on the South China Sea, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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As a storm approaches, men focus on making repairs to their fishing boat, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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Stuck on shore, a fisherman checks his mobile phone while in his bunk area, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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Fishermen play pool to pass the time while waiting for stormy weather to clear, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

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Motorcyclists travel a scenic highway heading toward Matalvis, a fishing village in Masinloc town, Sept. 6, 2019. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

Residents of Masinloc, a fishing community on the west coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines, say their catches are smaller because of Chinese activities around Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing ground in the contested South China Sea.

Fisherman Johnny Sonny Geruela says he used to make a decent living before China effectively took control of the shoal located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the Chinese boats to remain despite a 2016 international court ruling that favored the Philippines in a legal dispute over the shoal.

“They are destroying our traditional fishing ground,” Geruela told BenarNews. “The time will come when the whole area will be destroyed. And all of us, including the Chinese fishermen, will be the losers.”

Fernando Hicap, who leads Pamalakay, a fishing group that has joined in anti-China protests, said environmental damage caused by Chinese activities “has a long-term and strategic negative impact” on about 3 million Filipino fishermen and others who depend on the sea.

“Our coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea have dwindled due to Chinese reclamation and destructive harvesting practices,” Hicap said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

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