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Teodoro advises small fishers not to go to Scarborough Shoal alone

Small fishermen should not go to the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippines Sea (WPS) alone, according to Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

“The best advice that I can give is huwag magsosolo-solo ang maliit na fishermen (small fishermen should not go solo),” Teodoro said at a press conference with the Manila Overseas Press Club Tuesday night.

“A lot of times also we have fishermen rescued at sea because nagsosolo (they were sailing alone), and quote unquote magnanimously rescued by whomever,” he added.

According to Teodoro, small vessels can catch around 15 tons of fishes in the area if unimpeded.

"There is enough catch for all as long as you are unimpeded inside the Bajo De Masinloc. An average fishing expedition there is up to 15 tons at times for the small vessels,” he said.

Recently, Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal reported another harassment incident from the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG). Scarborough Shoal is also known as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal.

The CCG reportedly ordered the Zambales fishermen to return the shells they collected from the sea.

"Mr. Jack Tabat from Zambales, has admitted that the video came from their boat, FB Legendary Jo,” the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

“According to his statement, on 12 January 2024, Filipino fishermen who were collecting sea shells near the South entrance of BDM experienced harassment from the China Coast Guard," it added.

In a 24 Oras report by Raffy Tima on Tuesday, Teodoro condemned the actions of the CCG, stating that they have no “business in harassing Filipino fishermen.”

He also added the PCG and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea is in charge of responding to incidents of harassment by the CCG.

“We are not the ones encroaching on the EEZ of another country. The encroacher has a vast area of sea and if they ask us to meet them halfway, when they have already eaten 3/4 of the way into our EEZ. Where is the fairness in that? Who’s fooling who? And if there are spillover effects, we are not to blame,” Teodoro said.

“I do hope that there is some sanity and some sincerity behind the words of peaceful intent to avoid an armed conflict. Nobody wants an armed conflict but we cannot also not just accept the illegal and unconscionable encroachment into what rightfully belongs to the future generation of Filipinos,” he added.

According to Teodoro, the PCG as well as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) already have programs to boost their efforts to monitor the area.

Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc is within the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Tensions between China and the Philippines have heightened in recent months as both sides trade accusations over a series of incidents in the South China Sea.

A vital trading and shipping lane, the South China Sea, dotted with rocks, shoals and reefs where rich oil and mineral deposits were found, is claimed in part or wholly by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

Parts of the waters within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone have been renamed as West Philippine Sea.

An international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China's claim in a ruling on a case brought by the Philippines, which Beijing has since refused to accept. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News