MANILA (UPDATE)— The Chinese Coast Guard has reportedly driven away a Filipino fishing boat in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea and continued to shadow them until they left the area early this month, the Philippine Coast Guard said Saturday.
The maritime incident, a video of which was shared on the PCG Facebook account, happened on Jan. 9, days after President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. visited China.
The boat captain of FFB KEN-KEN reported their experience to authorities on Friday, based on the PCG statement.
"Accordingly, [the China Coast Guard vessel] maneuvered towards FFB KEN-KEN at a distance of approximately 800 yards and deployed a rigid hull inflatable boat," the PCG said.
"The CCG personnel onboard the RHIB gestured for the Filipino fishermen to leave the area. Consequently, FFB KEN-KEN altered her course and departed Ayungin Shoal. However, CCGV 5204 continued to shadow FFB KEN-KEN while underway to Boxall Reef."
A man aboard the fishing boat could be heard on the video saying, "Tinataboy kami, pinapaalis kami dito sa bahura sa Second Thomas. Kawawa ang mga Pinoy na mangingisda."
Boxall Reef is the international name of Rajah Soliman Reef, which, as with the Ayungin Shoal, is within the Philippines' 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The PCG said it is currently investigating the reported incident and Task Force Pag-asa was immediately deployed in the area to establish the country's presence there.
"This is to protect the interest and ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen who conduct fishing operations in the said vicinity waters as their source of livelihood," it said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is "awaiting official reports and will take the appropriate diplomatic action after verification and assessment of the incident.”
The incident happened after Manila and Beijing agreed to establish "direct communication line" in case of maritime incidents like this in the West Philippine Sea.
PROTECT OUR FISHERMEN
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya urged new National Security Adviser Eduardo Año to protest the harassment against Filipino fishermen, saying this is against the law.
Pamalakaya said the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) should craft a "strong protest" against China for driving away Filipino fishermen in the country's territory.
“Sapat na ang video na nakuhanan ng mga mangingisda para mapatunayang laganap pa rin ang presensya at intimidasyon ng Chinese Coast Guard sa mga Pilipino sa sarili nating karagatan," said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.
"Malakas na batayan na ito para maghain ng diplomatikong protesta ang Pilipinas sa gobyerno ng China," he added.
The group reminded Año that it is part of his mandate to make sure that the country's sovereignty is upheld.
Forming a strategic policy based on the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) must also happen to ensure maritime security, Pamalakaya said.
A fishermen in Zambales also recently said their fishing activity in the Scarborough Shoal remains limited.
China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that it has no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, and Manila ordered its military last month to boost its presence after a report that China had started reclaiming several unoccupied land features around the Spratly Islands.
Taiwan also lays claim to parts of the sea.
After his return from China, Marcos said they agreed that Beijing would not stop Filipinos from fishing in the country's waters, clarifying former NSA Clarita Carlos' statement that Beijing wants to partner with the local fisherfolk.
Marcos this week said the maritime dispute is something that keeps him up at night.
There is no statement yet from the Chinese government regarding the latest incident.