SUBIC, Zambales – More oil containment booms, stretching up to 2 kilometers, have been seen floating in waters near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, a top provincial official said.
The booms, which are set adrift to serve as temporary barriers in case of an oil spill, were seen 92 km (50 nautical miles) from the provincial capital of Iba, Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II said, citing reports from local fishermen.
Scarborough Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, is among the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea. It is about 230 km (124 nautical miles) west of Zambales. Fishermen from the provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan said they had been driven away by Chinese Coast Guard personnel from the shoal, a rich fishing ground for locals.
Mario Diaz, barangay captain of San Agustin in Iba, confirmed that fishermen from his village saw the booms 5.5 km (3 nautical miles) from the shore of Cabangan town on Friday. The interlinked booms span a kilometer long, with each boom measuring 2 meters in diameter.
“Since these are located quite a distance from our coastline, no one has tried to tow these to shore,” Lacbain told the Inquirer on the phone on Monday.
CPO Lino Torres, Philippine Coast Guard station commander based in Masinloc town, said the first set of booms was pulled to shore on Saturday morning.
“These objects have Chinese characters and we’re waiting for experts to examine these,” said Efren Medrano, chair of Lanao-Bangan Fishermen’s Association (Labafa) in Zambales. Labafa members found the containment booms last week.
Lacbain said the booms could have also been intended for dredging activities.
“These floating booms might have washed away from the territories being claimed by China. It could be a confirmation that China has activities [in the disputed sea],” he said.
Diaz said fishermen had similar theories. “We’re receiving reports from our fishermen that these booms are used by the Chinese for dredging to develop an island,” he said.
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