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PCG strengthens operations in West Philippines Sea

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday said it has strengthened and increased its presence and operations in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as directed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

In a statement, the PCG said Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu deployed “one of the PCG Fleet's largest maritime assets” BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) on January 28.

BRP Magbanua crew boarded Filipino fishing boats in the waters in and around the KIG to advise Filipino fishermen and crew to radio PCG or Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shore units in the area for any needed assistance, it added.

“As the summer season draws near, the PCG expects the number of Filipino fishing vessels that sail and fish in the WPS to greatly increase,” the PCG said.

“As the PCG steadily strengthens and increases its Maritime Patrol, Search and Rescue, and Law Enforcement operations in the WPS, it remains firmly committed to safeguarding Philippine interests and rights within the bounds of international law and conventions,” it added.

The PCG issued the statement amid the tension following the February 6 laser-pointing incident between the Chinese coast guard and the PCG in Ayungin Shoal.

The incident prompted the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest against China.

Marcos, meanwhile, has summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to discuss the issue.

On February 9 or over a week of operations of BRP Magbanua, the PCG said they encountered a Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessel in the waters off Recto Bank (Reed Bank) engaged in long-line fishing operations.

BRP Magbanua issued radio challenges and directed the foreign fishing vessel to leave the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) immediately. It also deployed Rigid-hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to conduct boarding and inspection.

The foreign fishing vessel secured its lines and immediately departed Recto Bank escorted by Philippine vessels, according to the PCG. —KBK, Joviland Rita/GMA Integrated News