MASINLOC, Zambales -- Foreign journalists belonging to the
East–West Center in visited this town Saturday
to get first-hand information on the conflict in the West Philippines Sea
“The purpose is to better understand
China Sea– West Philippines Sea
issue by talking to officials and fisherfolk in China,
Philippines and .
Here, we will give voice to Singapore Philippines
perspective,” said Gerard Finin, director of the Pacific Islands Development
Program of the . East–West
He said the 15 journalists came from
India, Indonesia, Japan,
New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore,
Taiwan, Thailand, USA
under an international journalism program called Jefferson Fellowship. Vietnam
“We are trying to find deeper and better understanding of the problem from the international community,” Finin who is facilitator of the visit said.
He said that they will also talk with officials of other countries concerned to get their side on the dispute.
Governor Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. and town mayor Desiree Edora welcomed the journalists at the three-story Masinloc municipal hall where they had tasty mangoes and "suman" for snack.
The governor said that earnings of fishermen have been drastically reduced with the tension and harassment of Zambales fishermen by the Chinese Coast Guard at the Scarborough Shoal declared by the Masinloc local government as Bajo de Masinloc.
“May the first-hand information be your strongest ally as you magnify them and put them in your own words to educate the world. My highest regard goes to all media practitioners who let the world see the situation through their own eyes,” Ebdane told the journalists.
He said that he has heard of the personal narratives of fishermen who became apprehensive about this territorial dispute affecting not only their means of living but also the welfare of their families.
“I hope that international media will focus not only on the polemics of establishing stronger grounds for the claim but will also highlight on the day-to-day plight for survival of our voiceless fishermen,” the governor said.
He said that before the tension flared up, fishermen from the
Philippines, China, Taiwan
were enjoying the bountiful catch in the disputed area. Vietnam
“I would like to resonate the resounding proclamation of the fishermen wishing Bajo de Masinloc as a ‘fishing ground without boarders’and maintaining peaceful co-existence as their guiding principle while the conflict is not yet resolved,” Ebdane said.
“As you go back to your respective countries, may I beseech the power of your words, as you wield your pen, to give voice to the voiceless fishermen of Zambales,” the governor said.
The foreign journalists interviewed some fishermen who claimed they were harassed while fishing at the Scarborough Shoal.
Macario Forones, fishing boat owner, said they were driven away by the Chinese Coast Guard with AK-47 firearm on board speed boats.
,” Forones quoted
the Chinese Coast Guard telling them. China
He said that a Chinese helicopter aided in driving them away, seeing to it that they are already miles away from the shoal.
Forones showed to the foreign journalists two big fishing boats that used to fish at Bajo de Masinloc but only anchored on higher ground at a fishing village in the town adjacent to the
. West Philippines