MANILA - Not once but four times. This is how a local fisherman described how Chinese vessels have destroyed artificial reefs in Masinloc, Zambales meant to help local fishermen earn a living.
Leonardo Cuaresma, New Masinloc Fisherman Association president, said 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 was not the first time it happened.
"Marami nang pagkakataon na nasisira ng mga barko ang aming mga payao diyan sa laot pero wala kaming matibay na ebidensya dahil iilan lang ang nakakakita. Subalit itong pagkakataon kasi marami ang nakasaksi at maraming nangangawil sa kasalukuyan nung nagyari yun," he said in a TeleRadyo interview.
Cuaresma said at least 30 bancas manned by Filipino fishemen were at the artificial reef when the HC Glory Hong Kong destroyed it.
"Ito ang pang apat na pagkakataon na sinira ng mga barko ang aming proyekto," he said.
Cuaresma said estimated damage to the reef was almost P900,000 but the ship's captain only offered $500 (around P27,000) for the damage.
Even worse, he said the vessel had already left the pier without paying anything.
Cuaresma said fishermen are losing hope about earning a living due to many instances of harassment by Chinese vessels. He urged the Philippine Coast Guard to help guard local fishermen from Chinese aggression.
"Marami na pong kasamahan ang na-displace sa Scarborough Shoal dahil nawalan na kami nang pangisdaan...Dito po sa municipal waters namin super crowded na ang aming pangisdaan, ito yung alternatibong pangisdaan sa gitna ng karagatan," he said.
"Dito lamang kami kumikita..."