MARIVELES, Bataan- Lugie Bagani has not fished at the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Reef) since last month, when Chinese vessels drove away Filipino fishermen with water cannon.
“We never returned to the shoal because they were training hoses at us,” Bagani, the skipper of the fishing boat Lucky 12 from the village of Sisiman in Mariveles, said in Filipino on Thursday.
His account jibed with reports by the military early this week that the Chinese Coast Guard drove away Filipino fishers from Panatag last Jan. 27, using water cannon.
Philippine authorities condemn the incident as another case of aggression by China, which is claiming all of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as part of its territory.
Bagani said about 40 fishing boats from Bataan used to fish in the waters around what the locals call Bajo de Masinloc.
“Huminto ng lahat (They’ve all stopped)” he said.
Panatag is about 200 kilometers from Bataan and 650 kilometers from China’s Hainan island.
Bagani said the last time they went to Scarborough was more than a month ago. But he added that the fishermen had experienced being hosed with sea water last year.
He said Panatag is rich fishing ground, and they used to catch tanigue, bariles and yellow fin.
Fishermen from Sisiman travel one day and one night to reach Panatag. They stay at the shoal for a week.
“We hope the government resolves the problem at Scarborough because our catch is getting smaller,” Bagani said.
He said most of the fishermen from Sisiman have shifted to the area near Palawan.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has advised Filipino fishermen against going to Panatag to avoid a confrontation with Chinese maritime authorities.