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.