September 25, 2023
MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) has installed a floating barrier southeast of Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) revealed Sunday.
The barrier, approximately 300 meters long, was allegedly meant to prevent Filipino fishing boats from entering the shoal and conducting fishing activities, it added.
Based on the video posted on PCG’s Facebook page, it seemed that PCG members witnessed the placing of the barrier as they approached Bajo de Masinloc.
In a statement, PCG said its personnel and members of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) saw the floating barrier during routine maritime patrol aboard BRP Datu Bankaw within the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc on September 22.
“It was reported by the Filipino fishermen that the CCG vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area,” PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said.
PCG asserted that three CCG rigid hull inflatable boats and Chinese Maritime Militia’s service boat “installed the floating barrier upon arrival of the BFAR vessel in the vicinity of the shoal,” while Filipino fishermen onboard more than 50 boats were fishing within the area.
Also, PCG said, four CCG vessels (CCG-3065, CCG-3066, CCG-3105, and CCG-3301) initiated 15 radio challenges to drive away the boats of Filipino fishermen as well as the BFAR vessel.
“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.
But, he added, “The BFAR vessel responded to each and every radio call and emphasized that they were carrying out a routine patrol within the territorial sea of [Bajo de Masinloc]. Notably, upon realizing the presence of media personnel onboard the BFAR vessel, the CCG vessels maintained a safe distance and moved away.”
In the wake of this incident, PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu committed to support BFAR and other concerned agencies “to ensure the safety and security of our Filipino fishermen.”
PCG vowed to continue “to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains” as it condemned this latest action of CCG and Chinese Maritime Militia.
As for the affected Filipino fishermen, PCG said BFAR “provided them with various grocery items and fuel subsidies to sustain their operations” as the government recognized “the importance of supporting the artisanal or subsistence fishing of these fishermen.”