The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) beefed up its capability to station ships at the disputed Bajo De Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, a ranking official of the maritime agency said Tuesday.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, made this comment when asked on whether the Coast Guard can station its vessels in Bajo de Masinloc during a broadcast interview Tuesday.
But while the PCG can deploy its ships there, these vessels cannot stay as long as their China Coast Guard (CCG) equivalent, which can stay for three to five weeks before being relieved.
“We have been doing this strategic deployment of our Coast Guard vessels since the new administration, at first we attempted to come close to eight nautical miles, and then two weeks or three weeks after, we did seven [nautical miles] and then six [nautical miles] and then five [nautical miles], we do this gradually until right now we become successful in reaching out to 300 meters,” he added.
Tarriela said that these efforts will be further sustained in the coming days along with plans to take control again of Bajo de Masinloc and its lagoon, which the country lost access to since the April 2012 stand-off.
“As I said since the new administration took office, we have already strategize how can we able to take control once again of Bajo De Masinloc especially the lagoon in Bajo De Masinloc, as I said for so many months we were able to calibrate our deployment until such time that we can already anchor at a distance of 300 meters,” he added.
Tarriela said they cannot give the details on the plan but emphasized that the PCG, along with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and with the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “will be able to sustain this patrol with the end goal of once again allowing the Filipino fishermen to be able to go inside the lagoon” and fish.
“It was already decided by the  Arbitral Award but it’s not just for the Filipinos but this is a traditional fishing ground for both Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipinos, so we are going to abide [by] the decision of the international ruling and that’s our end goal,” he added.
The PCG on Monday earlier conducted a special operation to remove the floating barrier that obstructed the southeast entrance of Bajo De Masinloc.
This floating barrier was installed by the CCG last week.
This is in response to the instruction of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. issued to the National Task Force for the West Philippines chair, National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año.
Tarriela earlier said the barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law.
“It also hinders the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk in Bajo de Masincloc, which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory,” he added.
Tarriela also emphasized that the 2016 Arbitral Award has affirmed that Bajo de Masinloc is the traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen.
“Thus, any obstruction hindering the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk in the shoal violates international law. It also infringes on the Philippines’ sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc,” he added.
“The decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal,” he stressed.
“The PCG remains committed to upholding international law, safeguarding the welfare of Filipino fisherfolk, and protecting the rights of the Philippines in its territorial waters,” Tarriela concluded.