THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Sunday scored the installation by the China Coast Guard (CCG) of a floating barrier at the southwest portion of Bajo De Masinloc (BDM), preventing the entry of Filipino fishing boats (FFB) and their crews.
Joining the outcry was the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
This act of the CCG deprived Filipino fisherfolk of their livelihood, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, Commodore Jay Tarriela, said in a statement Sunday.
“The floating barrier with an estimated length of 300 meters was discovered by the PCG and BFAR personnel onboard BRP Datu Bankaw when they conducted routine maritime patrol on September 22, 2023 at the vicinity of BDM,” Tarriela said.
BDM is also known as Scarborough Shoal.
It was also learned that three CCG’s rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and Chinese Maritime Militia’s service boat installed the floating barrier upon arrival of the BFAR vessel in the vicinity of the shoal.
The Filipino fishermen reported that the CCG vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area.
During the routine maritime patrol, the BFAR vessel observed more than 50 FFBs engaged in fishing activities in the area.
Recognizing the importance of supporting the artisanal or subsistence fishing of these fishermen, the BFAR provided them with various grocery items and fuel subsidies to sustain their operations, Tarriela said.
“However, a total of four CCG vessels [CCG-3065, CCG-3066, CCG-3105, and CCG-3301] initiated a series of 15 radio challenges in an attempt to drive away the BFAR vessel and FFBs,” he added.
The CCG crew alleged that the presence of the BFAR vessel and Filipino fishermen violated international law and the domestic laws of the People’s Republic of China.
Tarriela said the BFAR vessel responded to each radio call and emphasized that they were carrying out a routine patrol within the territorial sea of BDM.
Notably, upon realizing the presence of media personnel onboard the BFAR vessel, the CCG vessels maintained a safe distance and moved away.
Tarriela added that PCG commandant Admiral Artemio M. Abu committedto supporting the BFAR and other national government agencies in their efforts to ensure the safety and security of our Filipino fishermen.
“The PCG will continue to work closely with all concerned government agencies to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains,” Tarriela stressed.
In a related development, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. on Saturday scored China for claiming that the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal is causing marine damage in the WPS.
“The statement of China that the grounded Sierra Madre is causing irrevocable harm is, to put it as politely as possible—hypocritical. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! China continues to damage the WPS by its illegal reclamation activities in the SCS [South China Sea] and it was found to be a violator of international law in the 2016 Arbitral Award when such activities damaged the marine environment,” he added.
Teodoro also said that “disingenuous propaganda lines” such as this only serve to expose China’s insincerity.
He added that such action will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese government.
Earlier, the Philippines condemned China for causing extensive coral damage to Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal in the WPS.
Image credits: Bernard Testa