Manila Bulletin

Esperon tells Filipino fishermen: Go out and fish in West PH Sea


National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. urged Filipino fishermen on Wednesday, April 21, to go and fish in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as he assured that military, coast guard, and fisheries assets are deployed in the area to protect them from any foreign harassment­s.

Esperon, chairman of the National Task Force (NTF) for WPS, issued the call following reports that fisherfolk in Bataan were prevented from casting their nets in Scarboroug­h Shoal (Panatag Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc). Scarboroug­h Shoal is adjacent to the Luzon Sea and Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) which are all part of the WPS.

“Bataan folks, you are encouraged to go out and fish. We have deployed Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assets as well as Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) assets,” he said in a virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

At least five Filipino fishing vessels were in Scarboroug­h Shoal as of April 19.

“There is no prohibitio­n for us. That is a traditiona­l fishing ground as ruled by the arbitral ruling,” Esperon stressed, referring to the 2016 landmark ruling by the Permanent court of Arbitratio­n (PCA) which ruled in favor of the Philippine­s and junked China’s nine-dash line.

In 2012, a standoff between the Philippine­s and China happened in Scarboroug­h Shoal. To maintain the stability in the region, American and other foreign negotiator­s encouraged both forces to withdraw from the shoal. The Philippine­s did but China did not.

“After we folded out from the Scarboroug­h Shoal in 2012 upon the prodding of negotiator­s, China has never left the area,” said Esperon.

The Arbitral Tribunal identified Scarboroug­h Shoal as traditiona­l fishing ground so Filipino fishermen can still cast their nets in the area.

“We do not have a detachment there and China has no structures but they have coast guard and maritime militias. There are three Chinese Coast Guard [vessels] and two Chinese maritime militia [vessels] but we have our own Filipino fishing boats,” Esperon said.


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