PCG: PH fishing boats increasing in Bajo de Masinloc despite China’s 'no trespass' rule

By GISELLE OMBAY,GMA Integrated News

The number of Filipino fishing boats in the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc has increased amid the implementation of China’s policy that would allow the detainment of "foreign trespassers" in the South China Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Tuesday.

PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said that since June 14, the PCG deployed two vessels---BRP Sindangan and BRP Malapascua---to patrol the shoal which is located 124 nautical miles off Masinloc, Zambales,

“Since June 14 nang mamataan ng ating mga mangingisdang Pilipino na nandoon ang Philippine Coast Guard, increasing na ang number ng Filipino fishing boats that we were able to monitor in Bajo de Masinloc,” Tarriela said in an Unang Balita interview.

(Since June 14, when our Filipino fishermen found the presence of the Philippine Coast Guard there, the number of Filipino fishing boats that we were able to monitor in Bajo de Masinloc has been increasing.)

On June 15, he said the PCG spotted only three Filipino fishing boats in Bajo de Masinloc. It increased to 7 and then to 10 at the present.

In May, China issued a regulation empowering its coast guard to detain foreigners trespassing in the South China Sea for up to 60 days without trial. The policy has reportedly taken effect starting Saturday, June 15.

Due to fear of China’s threats, Joeffrey Elad, president of the Tropical Fish Gatherer Association in Masinloc, Zambales said that some Filipino fishermen were already avoiding certain areas of the West Philippine Sea


, particularly the Scarborough Shoal.

He appealed for the government to provide assistance and security to Filipino fishermen who want to return to the shoal, stressing that they don’t want to lose the feature to China.

'Empty threat'

Tarriela said that the PCG is committed to carry out its patriotic duty to ensure the safety of the Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

He also pointed out that the PCG has not monitored any substantial increase in the number of Chinese maritime forces in the Bajo de Masinloc and other areas in the Kalayaan Island Group.

“Ang personal take ko rito sa regulation na ‘to is since on the same day na dineclare ni Ms. Rafaela David na successful ang kanilang misyon sa Bajo de Masinloc, para sa’kin, this is an empty threat, they just intent to discourage the civil society from doing the same event,” Tarriela said.

(My personal take on this regulation is that it’s just an empty threat to discourage the civil society from doing the same mission that Ms. Rafaela David initiated and deemed successful.)

The Atin Ito Coalition conducted a civilian mission to the Scarborough Shoal from May 14 to 17.

David, co-convenor of the coalition, said the mission was a legitimate exercise of Filipino citizens' rights and Philippine sovereign rights based on international law. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News