The cost of Chinese poaching in WPS

By: Solita Collas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 10,2021 - 08:04 AM

Watching what is happening in Myanmar—the people being killed by the military who are sworn to defend them—my mind hearkens back to our Edsa Revolt against the Marcos dictatorship.

Myanmar, in free and fair elections, repudiated their military, with its own candidates. The military then essentially mounted a coup, claiming election fraud.

In 1986, the Philippines also held elections, but the incumbent administration acted immediately to ensure that Ferdinand Marcos would win. They rigged the election results, except they had Namfrel’s quick count to contend with, and the walkout of government computer experts handling their count. The people claimed election fraud.

In both cases, the people protested. But here, the stories diverge. In Myanmar, the military responded brutally, killing the people, even children. In the Philippines, Marcos (reportedly) denied the request of Gen. Fabian Ver to use military might. For this, I am grateful to Marcos.

Of course, had Marcos acquiesced to Ver, it is not sure that the military would have gone along with Ver. But I am glad it was not put to a test.

The people’s will carried the day. And the whole incident, from election to the people’s victory, was 18 days, with four days of people power protest and of military participation.

Their sign of protest are three fingers in the air, our sign was two fingers shaped like an L (for Laban). They have noise barrages and honk their horns as we did.

But again, a difference takes shape. The Philippines was crawling with media from all over the world (Marcos was claiming a democracy). Myanmar has closed itself. It has only recently allowed CNN to enter, but I am sure it is regretting its rashness. The CNN correspondent, a woman, is telling it like it is, and has been asking very embarrassing questions. Hooray for CNN.

The world has been long on words, but short on action. The spotlight is on the United Kingdom now, where the Myanmar ambassador was locked out of the embassy by the military attaché. Is the United Kingdom going to accept the military takeover, or will it defend democracy?

And what is the Philippines doing?

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China has reportedly been the world’s largest exporter of fish since 2002. But its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is already overfished, so that’s why it has been encroaching on ours. But, of course, it has its military objectives as well.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, after a period of silence and what may be called obsequious justification of China’s various moves (notably allowing Chinese telecommunications equipment to be installed in Philippine military bases), has at long last bared his teeth at this incursion into the Philippine EEZ.

Even more infuriating is that China did not even bother to furnish a better explanation than that the 220 fishing vessels which suddenly appeared on March 7 in Julian Felipe Reef were seeking shelter from inclement weather and rough seas. No wonder Lorenzana’s I-am-no-fool remark.

While the well-based suspicion is that the Chinese are building “structures,” this column will focus on the equally important economic impact of Chinese fishing vessels poaching on Philippine waters.

Fish stocks in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) account for 10 percent of global landed catch, which in 2016 was estimated at 7.9 million metric tons (MT) a year. The reported 270 Chinese fishing boats present at Subi and Mischief reefs would have a cumulative catch of 3,240 MT per day or 1.2 million MT a year. Then there is Scarborough Shoal, where our catch has declined 40 percent year-on-year because of Chinese boats preventing us from fishing in the lagoon. And the Spratlys, of which Julian Felipe Reef is a part. So if they catch about 3 million MT from all these, assuming an average price of fish of P100 a kilo, they get P300 billion worth of fish, or about $6 billion a year. That’s how much is being stolen from us. From February 2020 to February 2021, the value of China’s fishery exports was estimated to be about $12 billion.

What I cannot understand, Reader, is this: China is stealing $6 billion from us from fishing (excluding the value of coral reef destruction), and we are grateful that they have donated 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine worth at the most $20 million? WTF? No wonder China considers us fools.

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TAGS: China, Edsa Revolt against the Marcos dictatorship, EEZ, Exclusive Economic Zone, Myanmar, overfished, UK, West philippine Sea, WPS

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