Stay clear of disputed sea, Coast Guard tells PH fishermen
4:03 am | Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines, at the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Be careful out there.

With none of its boats currently deployed to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has advised Filipino fishermen to “take precautionary measures and avoid confrontations” with Chinese surveillance ships in the area.

PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said on Wednesday they “cannot deploy any vessel on our own in light of the arbitration case filed by the government in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea” or Itlos.

The Philippines has asked the Hamburg, Germany-based body to rule on its maritime dispute with Beijing.

“Also, any deployment must be approved by the national leadership,” Balilo told the Inquirer. The Coast Guard is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications.

The last time Coast Guard patrol boats operated in the West Philippine Sea was in mid-2013, Balilo recalled.

In 2012, China seized control of the Scarborough Shoal, also called the Bajo de Masinloc, located 220 kilometers west of Zambales province, following a three-month standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese patrol boats.

Stop harassment

Charles Jose, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson, last week asked the Chinese government to stop the harassment of Filipino fishermen, after a Chinese vessel rammed three Filipino boats carrying 29 fishermen at Panatag Shoal on Jan. 29.

Jose said the DFA had filed a protest with the Chinese Embassy in Manila, protesting the action. The DFA also accused Chinese fishermen in 24 boats of harvesting endangered giant clams in the area a week earlier.

In Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry rebuked the Philippines, claiming its coast guard had “sent a dinghy to drive (Filipino fishermen) away and slightly bumped one of the fishing vessels.”

The DFA, however, said the three boats were “intentionally rammed” by a ship with Chinese markings.

Tags: Armand Balilo , Bajo de Masinloc , Philippine Coast Guard , Scarborough Shoal , South China Sea , West Philippine Sea

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