The online news portal of TV5
CANDELARIA, Zambales -- No less than Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane acknowledged the local government's helplessness in dealing with the standoff with China in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, as the local fishing industry is taking its toll from the dispute.
"We can't compete with them," Ebdane told reporters at a news conference here Wednesday night.
Ebdane said policemen are unable to go near the shoal as they are only allowed up to 15 kilometers from the coast of Zambales.
Scarborough Shoal is located 124 kilometers off Masinloc town, well within the country's exclusive economic zone.
Only the Coast Guard has the maritime asset to enforce the law in Scarborough Shoal but even they are no match for the gunboats of China.
"Our Coast Guard ships are only few," Ebdane said.
Latest reports from the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) revealed that a total of 14 Chinese vessels are at Scarborough, including the Chinese gunboat Yuzheng 310. There are also seven fishing vessels and three fishing boats in the shoal.
Even before the dispute with China, Ebdane said local fishermen were already complaining about the way the Chinese catch their fish, such as the use of cyanide.
Chinese fishermen also catch rare and endangered marine species such as giant clams, corals and baby sharks.
"Wala tayong magawa," Ebdane said. "All we can do is advise our fishermen to be careful."
Masinloc fishermen said that the dispute has cost them P300,000-worth of earnings, since it is the height of fishing season at the shoal.
In a bid to help them cope, the local government of Zambales released fingerlings to develop marine species that can thrive in waters with less salt. That way, fishermen can still fish without the need to go out to the shoal.
Ebdane said the project was started two months ago in some parts of Zambales.
Ebdane reiterated the stand of the local government of Masinloc that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory.
"Masinloc used to be the capital of Zambales...the seat of government," he said.
The governor acknowledged that enforcement will not solve the dispute at Scarborough but diplomatic talks.
"I don't think we will go to war. Wag tayong mang-bully, wag makipagsuntukan sa malaki. We have to stay on our ground but we should not provoke," Ebdane said.
The local government of Masinloc has also appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to solve the dispute immediately through diplomatic means.