MANILA, Philippines — Suspected Chinese fishermen have been continuously harvesting corals and giant clams in Scarborough Shoal for more than a decade, the leader of the area’s fishermen’s federation announced Monday.
This activity started since 2012 and has continued since then, said Leonardo Cuaresma, president of the New Masinloc Fishermen’s Association.
It was also in 2012 when the Philippines and China had a standoff over the shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.
READ: Scarborough shoal standoff: A timeline
“Mula pa po noong 2012 ‘yan ay ginagawa na nila. If you have an impasse, you can’t do it at all,” Cuaresma said in a telephone interview with reporters.
(They’ve been doing that since 2012. So since the standoff, they were the only ones to benefit; no one but themselves could explore that area.)
“It is moderate to watch the Chinese fishermen fishing, and the coral reefs catch giant clams, conches and giant clams.
(Since fishing activities ceased in the area, Chinese fishermen have continuously destroyed our corals, while also harvesting our giant clams and the shells of the giant clams.)
Cuaresma also noted that the number of giant clams in the area has now been depleted, while a large number of corals have also been crushed.
“Base sa reports that there are many giant clams in the kasama, many maninisid in the kasama, the giant clams in the kasama; Hindi is one of the giant shells. Ngayon, wala na halos makitang giant clams,” Cuaresma said.
(Based on the reports of the members who have been diving in the area, the number of giant clams in the area has been reduced, unlike before when the giant clams were concentrated. Now there were almost no giant clams.)
“You can see the corals of the coral reefs,” he added.
(If we see the current situation, many corals in Bajo de Masinloc have been crushed.)
He also urged the government to take swift action against this incident: “Kung ganito ang nangyayari sa atin, panahon na para gumawa ng hakbang.”
(If this situation continues, now is the time to take a step.)
The shoal made headlines again when the Chinese Coast Guard installed a floating barrier in the area about 300 meters long on September 22, the Philippine Coast Guard said.
The government vowed to take all “appropriate measures” to remove the barrier in the area, claiming this violated the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling.
The arbitration award invalidated Beijing’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, with overlapping areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.