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China coast guard ‘drove off’ Filipino fishers from Ayungin

Weeks after the Philippines reached an "agreement" with China, the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) allegedly drove off Filipino fisherfolk from the Ayungin Shoal, part of the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

According to Ian Cruz's Friday report on "24 Oras," a video shows CCG vessel 5204 and a speed boat allegedly driving the fishermen away.

The Ayungin Shoal is some 100 nautical miles off Palawan but is likewise near Mischief Reef, an area in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) reportedly occupied by China.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said they would speak with the fisherfolk involved in the incident to get a "clear picture" of what transpired.

Their statements will be forwarded to the National Task Force- West Philippine Sea and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in case the country would file a diplomatic protest.

"Hindi naman tama na paalisin. We will try to inquire some more. Pagkatapos saka tayo magbibigay ng conclusive statement kung ano ang nangyari," said PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo.

(It was wrong to drive them away. We will try to inquire further. Afterward, that is when we will give a conclusive statement on what happened.)

"May instruction na po si Admiral Abu for us to prepare yung mga parameters. Pero of course we get guidance from the DFA," he added.

(PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu gave instructions on the parameters. But of course, we will seek guidance from the DFA.)

Due to the natural resources at Ayungin, Balilo said military vessels and PCG units, including around the BRP Sierra Madre, were stationed in the area to ensure security. 

The Sierra Madre was aground at the Ayungin Shoal.

"Nandoon po 'yung 9701 natin at saka meron tayong mga 44-meter vessel na umiikot doon. Pero alam nyo naman napakalaki ng area at hindi sa lahat ng panahon mababantayan natin 'yung mga fishermen," he added.

(Our BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) is there, and we have several 44-meter vessels on patrol. But you do know it's a large area and we can't always be around to protect the fishermen.)

On Monday, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said he had an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that China would allow Filipino fisherfolk to continue with their work in the highly contested waters.

This comes weeks after Marcos said that Xi, during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, had "promised that we would find a compromise and find a solution that will be beneficial so that our fishermen might be able to fish again in their natural fishing grounds."

"It's really an agreement. China will not stop our fishermen from fishing," said Marcos. — Sundy Locus/DVM, GMA Integrated News