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.