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Pinoy fishers to sail back to Panatag Shoal

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino fisherfolk will sail again to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to determine if the supposed meeting between President Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco, California over the weekend will result in an improved situation in the area amid the harassment of Chinese coast guard and militia, according to a fishers’ group.

In an interview over radio dzBB yesterday, Tropical Fish Gatherer Association (San Salvador, Masinloc, Zambales) president Joeffrey Elad expressed hope that talks between the two leaders will benefit fishermen currently experiencing bullying from Chinese ships.

“We hope that our plight was really discussed and there will be good changes in what we experience (in Scarborough Shoal). We are scheduled to return (to Bajo de Masinloc today); we will be able to determine if there are indeed changes in Scarborough Shoal, if indeed, (Marcos and Xi’s) meeting was smooth,” Elad said.

During their meeting, Marcos told Xi that Filipino fishermen should have access to fishing grounds in the South China Sea, where they again reaffirmed commitment to dialogue, but admitted that challenges remain.

Elad said that one of the two fishing boats that returned from Panatag Shoal went home with a few fish caught amid harassment from the Chinese.

“Last Nov. 13, we arrived from Scarborough. The mother boat had caught a lot of fish, but the other boat managed to bring home very limited catch as (fishermen) were tailed by a patrol boat from China. They were not able to fish properly,” he added.

Elad noted that a fishing boat spends at least P150,000 in fuel, ice, food, salaries of captain and crew during the seven-day sail, but suffers losses because of harassment from Chinese boats.

“We spend at least P60,000 for diesel, P20,000 for ice. We also spend for food and pay for salaries of the boat captain and crew, or at least P150,000. The other boat was able to sell only P59,000 worth of fish compared to the expenses which we only sourced through loans,” he said.

According to Elad, Filipino fishermen can earn as much as P500,000 if they are free to fish in Bajo de Masinloc.

“We can earn more if not for the bullying of China. We can