A CONFRONTATIONAL Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) contingent stood the “heat” and compelled Chinese militia vessels at the West Philippine Sea to leave Sabina Shoal inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), says National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
In a statement, the chairman of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) were conducting sovereignty patrols when they found seven of the Chinese ships anchored at the Sabina Shoal, which is just 130 nautical miles away from Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on April 27.
According to Esperon, the Chinese militia vessels initially ignored a series of challenges by the patrolling PCG and the BFAR, but eventually dispersed two days after.
But the situation at the Sabina Shoal is far from what is happening at the Scarborough Shoal in Zambales, where vessels, marked as Chinese Coast Guard have reportedly been provoking PCG vessels.
Esperon has already issued a statement strongly condemning Chinese Coast Guard’s “blocking and dangerous maneuver” against PCG vessels last April 24 to April 25.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuvers and radio challenges conducted by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) against PCG vessels BRP Gabriela Silang and BRP Sindangan, during legitimate law enforcement patrols and maritime exercises while in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) on 24-25 April 2021, as a violation of our sovereignty,” said Esperon.
“As part of our rotational patrol over BdM, PCG vessels BRP Sindangan and BFAR MCS 3005 are en route to the area to enforce our fisheries laws and protect our fishermen. On the other hand, BRP Malapascua is under way to the Municipality of Kalayaan,” he added.
The Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China over its “belligerent” actions against the Philippine vessels conducting maritime drills at Scarborough Shoal.
An obviously pissed off Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin likewise went to social media and issued strongly-worded expletives against China. He, however, was scolded by Malacañang, compelling him to issue an apology to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi over cursing at China.
As this developed, Esperon seconded the call issued by the BFAR urging Filipino fishermen to sail the West Philippine Sea adding that the Philippines would not be affected by the fishing restrictions in the South China Sea imposed by China from May 1 to August 16.
“This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen and the NTF-WPS opposes China’s imposition of the same over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines. The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS,” said Esperon.
Philippines’ maritime exercises will also continue to protect the country’s territorial waters from illegal unreported fishing as well as enforce maritime security and safety, Esperon also noted.