MANILA — Authorities and local fishermen in Masinloc, Zambales are holding dialogues with the crew of a Hong Kong vessel that rammed into an artificial reef near their municipal waters, the president of the town's fisherfolk said Wednesday.
New Masinloc Fisherman Association President Leonardo Cuaresma told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo that the vessel rammed into the said reef on Jan. 17.
Citing eyewitness accounts, Cuaresma said that some 30 fishermen were at the reef when they saw the Chinese vessel heading towards their direction.
The fishermen were waving at the vessel, warning it of their position, but allegedly ignored their signals.
"Malayo pa ang barko ay sinesenyasan na ito ng mga mangingisda na lumihis dahil nakatumbok ito sa kanila. Sa kasamaang palad po ay hindi lumihis ang barko at nakaladkad ito 'yung fish aggregating device," he said.
The ramming incident largely damaged the artificial reef, Cuaresma said, noting that it was the main source of livelihood for many of the town's fisherfolk.
"Ito na po ang alternatibong pangisdaan ng ating mga maliliit na mangingisda sapagkat hindi na po [sustainable] iyong atin pong municipal waters," he added.
Authorities have yet to determine if the ramming was an accident or done on purpose.
As of writing, the Hong Kong vessel remains moored in Masinloc, and the Philippine Coast Guard has since conducted dialogues with the ship's captain on a possible settlement.
Cuaresma said that they were asking for a reparation of P900,000, but the Chinese ship's captain reportedly refused, saying that they would only pay them between $500 and $1000 for the damage.
"Ang sabi po ng Coast Guard, hindi naman po makatarungan iyong kanilang gustong mangyari," he added, noting that they have documented pictures of the Hong Kong vessel and its body number.
The municipal waters of Masinloc are located some 200 kilometers away from Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, a disputed territory between the Philippines and China.