MANILA -- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is advising Filipino fishermen to stay out of Bajo de Masinloc for now as the Philippines and China have yet to resolve their territorial dispute.
Speaking to radio dzMM on Thursday, BFAR Director Asis Perez said it would be best for fishermen to keep out of Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, to prevent further escalating tension in the area.
"Nung una pa, ang atin talagang gabay sa ating mga mangingisda ay iwasan yung posibilidad nga na magkaroon ng komprontasyon diyan... Sa ngayon siyempre ang pinakamaganda doon ay makapag-ingat sila at malayo sila doon sa lugar kung saan may tensyon," Perez said.
Last January 27, Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired a water cannon for several minutes to drive away Filipino fishermen from the disputed territory.
A day after that, a Chinese vessel also chased off Filipino fishermen in the shoal, as shown in a cellphone video taken by fisherman Ramoncito Dumas.
Dumas said Chinese ships patrolled the area for at least three days.
But Perez assured Filipino fishermen that the tension in Bajo de Masinloc, which is abundant in lapu-lapu and aquarium or ornamental fish, will not have a great effect on their livelihood.
He noted that BFAR has already installed over 200 fish aggregating devices called "payao" in the area as support for the local fishermen.
These devices are strategically scattered 10 kilometers, 40, and 70 kilometers away from the shores of Pangasinan and Masinloc in Zambales.
"Ito yung inilalagay natin sa mga baybaying dagat, parang ito yung nag-a-attract ng mga isda. Para yung mga mangingisda natin ay dun na lamang sila pupunta," he explained.
"Sa ngayon, yun ang kaya nating gawin na pang-ayuda dun sa ating mga mangingisda para lang meron silang additional area na pwedeng pangisdaan," he said.
"Yun ang pwedeng gawin ng isang responsableng gobyerno sapagkat hindi naman natin siyempre pwedeng painitin yung sitwasyon dun. At meron naman tayong legal na hakbang na ginagawa ng Department of Foreign Affairs," Perez said.
China and the Philippines have been locked in a tense dispute over ownership of the Bajo de Masinloc, also known as the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.
Manila earlier brought before an arbitral tribunal China's large territorial claims.
Malacañang on Wednesday said the Philippines will go ahead and file its memorial or written arguments before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in a bid to bolster its case against China's sweeping nine-dash claim over the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.