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BFAR: China damaging Bajo de Masinloc to thwart Pinoy fishers

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said on Saturday that their recent deployments at the Bajo de Masinloc found the lagoon heavily damaged, possibly due to cyanide fishing by Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen.

According to the BFAR, Filipino fishermen had told the bureau that China was deliberately harming the Bajo de Masinloc to deter Filipinos from fishing at the shoal

"This is a clear violation. This is a clear case of illegal fishing. And China being, if I'm not mistaken, being signatory to the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] so, they're committing a violation," said BFAR spokesperson Nazario Briguera in Chino Gaston's 24 Oras Weekend report.

Cyanide use was a possible reason the fish at the Bajo de Masinloc were small.

Briguera added that cyanide use "compromises the marine integrity, not only of the Philippines but also other countries."

According to the BFAR's spokesperson, the damage caused by China on corals had reached "billions of pesos."

The BFAR and the Philippine Coast Guard said they were leaving it up to the Department of Justice to decide if a complaint would be filed against China.

"If you're asking if we are satisfied now with the behavior of the Chinese, I will say we are not yet satisfied with the treatment. Sinasabi nga ng fishermen may free sila mangisda pag anjan kami dahil nakatuon ang attention ng China sa PCG at BFAR ships," said PCG spokesperson for the Weat Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela.

In September last year, the Office of the Solicitor General said it considered filing a new complaint against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the reported damage to corals in the WPS.

GMA News Online contacted the embassies of China and Vietnam to get their statements on the matter.

Food, fuel

Meanwhile, the BFAR distributed food aid and 21,000 liters of fuel to the 19 Filipino fishing boats near the Bajo de Masinloc.

The floating barriers placed by China at the shoal had yet to be removed due to the interception and surveillance of the China Coast Guard.

The PCG attempted to remove it on Thursday night, but failed as the CGC was said to be guarding the area.

The Philippine government recently announced the rotational deployment of BFAR and PCG ships at the shoal so Filipinos could fish freely and not be harassed by the Chinese.

With this, it was possible that Philippine fish supplies could increase, which, in turn, may result in cheaper prices in the markets.

"Ang objective natin dito is not to provoke anybody, not to escalate the tension in bajo de masinloc. Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang pagngingisda dito to support our food security," Tarriela added. — Sherylin Untalan and Michaela del Callar/DVM/KG, GMA Integrated News