MANILA - Fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday to help them get compensation after a Chinese ship damaged their equipment in the West Philippine Sea.
Leonardo Cuaresma, president of the New Masinloc Fisherman’s Association, said their group wanted to bring the incident to the President's attention.
Cuaresma was referring to the January 17, 2023 incident where a Chinese coal hauler ship HC Glory Hong Kong dragged and broke the rope attached to the base of a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) owned by the fishermen's association.
“Malayo pa ang barko, sinenyasan na ng mga mangingisda na lumihis kasi nakatumbok ito sa kanila. Sa kasamaang palad po ay hindi lumihis ang barko at nakaladkad nito ang payao po namin hanggang sa ito ay maputol. Ayon sa mga kasamahang mangingisda, kung hindi nila naalis ang pagkakatali, malamang sila ay nakaladkad ng barko,” Cuaresma said during the online show The West Philippine Sea CATCH.
(The ship was still far away, but the fishermen already signaled it to adjust its course because it was headed straight for them. Unfortunately, the vessel did not adjust and ended up dragging the fishermen's raft until its rope was broken. According to the fishermen, if they hadn't broken off the rope attached to the raft, they would have been dragged alongside it.)
He added that according to fishermen who witnessed the incident, the Chinese ship's crew didn't do anything when the FAD was caught.
“Walang ginawa ang mga tripulante ng mga barko habang nakakaladkad nito, hanggang sa tuluyang ito ay maputol.”
(The Chinese vessel's crew did not do anything while the fishermen's raft was being dragged.)
The fishermen said they sought the assistance of the Coast Guard and Bureau of Customs to “mediate” and have an audience with the captain of HC Glory Hong Kong to “explain their side," and seek compensation for the damage incurred.
But Cuaresma said the two agencies did not let them participate in the negotiation and the compensation offered was way below their estimated damage of almost P900,000.
"At noong bumaba po ang Coast Guard at ship agent noong natapos na ito makipag-usap sa kapitan ng barko, sinasabi niya na kung papayag kami ay babayaran kami ng $500 (around P27,000) para sa nakita nilang damage,” Cuaresma continued.
(When the Coast Guard and ship agent finished negotiating with the captain of the Chinese vessel, they told us that if we would agree, we would be given $500 worth of compensation for the damages that they saw.)
He said they might have reached a better deal if they were allowed to negotiate with the Chinese vessel's crew.
“Bakit hindi ninyo po kasi kami pinayagan na makaharap para kami na sana ang mag-negotiate? Baka sana sakali nagkaroon po tayo ng mas magandang settlement.”
(Why didn't you allow us to participate in the negotiations? Maybe we could have struck a better deal if we were allowed to participate.)
The incident allegedly cost the fishermen significant losses amounting to around P400,000.
“Dalawang tonelada sana ang maha-harvest namin—nawala, na dapat sana nagkakahalaga ng P360,000. Nawalan po sila ng mahigit P400,000 [at] dapat sana kumikita man lang sila ng 10 kilo araw-araw, pero dahil sa pagkakasira ng ating proyekto ay nawalan na sila ng kasiguraduhan na kumita,” Cuaresma said.
(The fishermen would have taken home 2 tons worth of harvest—all gone, which would have cost around P360,000. They lost around P400,000 and they should have been earning 10 kilos worth of harvest every day but because of the incident, they lost the assurance of earning at all.)
Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard Spokesperson Armand Balilo said he is still looking into the matter.