PBBM: PH to file case if cyanide fishing in Scarborough proven true

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

February 20, 2024, 5:36 pm Updated on February 20, 2024, 5:41 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – The Philippines will file a case if there is substantial evidence of cyanide fishing in the Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday.

“If we feel that there is enough grounds to do so, we will,” Marcos said in a media interview on the sidelines of an event at the Metropolitan Theater in the City of Manila when asked if the Philippine government is keen on filing a case against those using cyanide to stun fish in the shoal.

Marcos said the reported cyanide fishing in Bajo de Masinloc is becoming “more alarming,” considering the alleged rise in the number of fishermen involved.

Citing the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) report, Marcos said foreign fisherfolk have been resorting to cyanide fishing for a long time.

“The best that we know is that there really is, as far as we can tell,” Marcos said.

“And I do know that there are cases of cyanide fishing before even here in the Philippines but I think the reason that it has been more alarming is that it has become more prevalent,” he added.

The BFAR reported over the weekend that Chinese fishermen have been using cyanide to “intentionally destroy” Bajo de Masinloc and prevent Philippine vessels from accessing the area.

It also said the lagoon was heavily damaged because of cyanide fishing by Chinese and Vietnamese fisherfolk.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) has directed BFAR to submit evidence that Chinese fishermen are using cyanide in the Bajo de Masinloc.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela on Saturday said Marcos has directed the PCG and the BFAR to continue the deployment in the Bajo de Masinloc amid China’s continued presence in Philippine waters.

Careful study needed

Meanwhile, the Office of the Solicitor General said it continues to study legal options that can be taken by Manila regarding the issue.

"But when the time is ripe, the OSG will collaborate with other relevant agencies, including the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), the DOJ (Department of Justice), the NSC (National Security Council), and other key members of the National Task Force on the WPS (West Philippine Sea). Any legal action must be supported by strong, solid, and competent evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of any international tribunal. That is why all government agencies must work together and support each other to achieve the common goal of protecting the country’s sovereign rights in the WPS," Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

Guevarra added that the decision to commence any legal action “lies with the President in consultation with the national task force on the WPS.”

"A possible complaint for environmental/marine damage is one of these options. the recent report on the use of cyanide off Scarborough shoal, serious as it is, needs a careful factual verification," he added. (with report from Benjamin Pulta/PNA)