'Panatag' documentary highlights Pinoy fishermen's struggles in WPS

Izzy Lee, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 20 2023 12:54 AM | Updated as of May 24 2023 12:45 PM


MANILA—A screening of the short documentary "Panatag" took place in Sine Pop, Quezon City on Friday.

The film, directed by Allan Lazaro and produced by Project V Media and IMPL Project Philippines, showcases the struggles that the fisherfolk from Masinloc, Zambales face, in their attempt to regain their livelihood and a sense of security at Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal.

Panatag Shoal, which is located in the West Philippine Sea, has been the subject of a longstanding dispute between the Philippines and China. In 2016, the arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines, declaring China's nine-dash line claim invalid.

The documentary depicts a wide range of challenges that fisherfolk have to face, such as threats due to militarization in the West Philippine Sea and a loss of a source of income.

"We don't really know what they're experiencing aside from they're hit by the water cannon or when the Chinese Coast Guard got their catch. After that, we don't know what's happening to them," Lazaro said.

"We wanted to show how our fisherfolks are living their lives. As you can see they are very resilient, they are very strong."

The West Philippine Sea is also an issue of food security in the country. 

According to Alfredo Zabate, a fisherman from Masinloc, they lost access to Scarborough Shoal in 2012, which was the last time they visited the area.

"Nung last time po na nagpunta kami ng Scarborough, maganda pa po yung corals. Sagana po yung isda. Steady po yung income namin kahit pa hinaharangan kami ng coast guard," he said.

Zabarte mentioned the current changes in Scarborough Shoal now.

"Di na katulad noon ang corals ng Scarborough na maganda, kasi hinahango nila yung buhangin, inaangat tapos tinatapon nila. Magaling sila maghanap ng pwede nila ma-assemble magawang plato siguro," Zabate said.

Despite the challenges they face, he believes that the Scarborough Shoal belongs to the Philippines.

"Sa atin naman po talaga yan kasi tayo ang nanalo sa tribunal. Tayong mga Pilipino hindi naman tayo madamot eh. (JC) Kapag sila ang pumasok sa atin okay lang, makikipag-agawan tayo sa panghuhuli ng isda wala silang naririnig (JC) Ipaglaban naman po ng gobyerno natin na atin naman talaga yan," Zabarte said.

Panatag's screening is a vivid reminder of the fisherfolk's daily struggles amidst the ongoing conflict it the West Philippine Sea and emphasizes the need to take action to reclaim their livelihoods and protect the rights of Filipinos.