MANILA, May 28 (Mabuhay) — Malacañang on Thursday said it will take into consideration the sentiments of Filipino fishermen amid China’s incursions into the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).

This, after militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) claimed that Filipino fishermen in Zambales lose around 70 percent of their income due to the heightened presence of Chinese vessels in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a virtual presser, shrugged off Pamalakaya’s statement since it is an umbrella group of Bagong Alyansa Makabayan (BAYAN) which is a Left-leaning organization.

“Bakit naman natin sinasabi na Pamalakaya lang ang pupuwedeng magsalita sa usaping ito? Alam naman nating identified ang Pamalakaya sa BAYAN (Why would we just listen to Pamalakaya regarding this issue? We know that Pamalakaya is identified with BAYAN),” Roque said.

Bobby Roldan, Pamalakaya vice chair for Luzon and a fisherman in Botolan, Zambales, said the average income of a fisherman dropped from an average of PHP1,000 to a meager PHP300 per fishing trip since last year.

Roldan, in a statement, added that fishermen could not return to Panatag Shoal because they are afraid of being harassed by Chinese ships.

In the same statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson and former Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap said China’s supposed militarization in the busy waterway leads to the destruction of marine resource and exhaustion of fish stocks.

Roque said he would rather listen to other Filipino fishermen who do not belong to Pamalakaya.

“So, sa akin, mas importanteng pakinggan muna ang mga pahayag ng walang pinapanigang mga grupo ng mga mangigisda at tatanungin ko po sila dahil minsan, naging abugado po nila ako (For me, it is more important to listen to other fishermen who are not part of any organization and I will ask them personally since I once represented them),” he said.

On May 20, Roque told Filipino fishermen to stay in their traditional fishing grounds in WPS despite China’s imposition of a three-month fishing ban that covers part of the contested sea.

On May 17, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a diplomatic protest against China’s fishing moratorium that runs from May 1 to August 16 and covers “waters north of 12 degrees north latitude” which encroaches areas on Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone, including the Bajo de Masinloc.

The National Task Force on WPS reported on May 12 that around 287 Chinese maritime militia vessels are scattered over the various features of Kalayaan municipality in Palawan. (MNS)

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