MASINLOC, Philippines — When nations duel over reefs, rocks and islets, people are going to get hurt, and in the South China Sea dispute, that means the fishermen here who once wrested a living from the contested waters.
Gunmen in a Chinese speedboat drove Macario Forones, for instance, away from a favorite spot called Scarborough Shoal, and now his boat, the Marvin-1, sits useless in the grass and weeds above the high-tide line, and he sells someone else’s fish from a stall in the local market. Efrim Forones now dives for clams in the bay, making about one-tenth of what he earned when he fished the sea. Viany Mula says he was set upon with a Chinese water cannon when he ventured out to the shoal in his boat, and now he makes deliveries around town on a motorbike, barely earning enough each day, as he puts it, to buy the rice he needs.
“I really want to fish the shoal,” Mula said one recent day. “It’s a very rich fishing ground. But that’s not possible now.”