China’s plan on Scarborough Shoal poses a threat to Filipino fishermen

DAGUPAN CITY — The local fishermen of Infanta in the province of Pangasinan can no longer fish on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea once China’s alleged plan of building a permanent structure there is initiated.

Charlito Maniago, head of the fishing village of Cato in Infanta said that it would connote China taking ownership of the shoal if a permanent structure there would be built. To recall, China has taken forcible possession of Panatag from the Philippines in 2012.

In an interview by Inquirer via telephone on Saturday, March 18, 2017, Maniago was reportedly concerned of the fishermen not being able to take a hold of the shoal again. “What will happen to our fishermen? They will not be allowed to fish there again,” he said.

On the other hand, Jowe Legaspi, a Cato village councilman,  pointed out that the government should assert ownership over the shoal.

In July 2016, the International Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague had ruled in favor of the Philippines; stating that China has “no historical rights” over the West Philippine Sea based on their “nine-dash line” map.

“I hope China’s plan to build a permanent structure (on Panatag) will not push through. Why them? It’s ours,” Legaspi added.

It has been noted that after President Duterte’s state visit to Beijing in October last year, Chinese coast guards finally allowed Filipino fishermen back to the shoal; with fishermen bringing home large bounties of fish from the shoal each day since the start of the fishing season.

If China’s plan indeed pushes through, what would happen to the village folks of Infanta whose regular source of income is at stake?