MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has ramped up its visibility at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) and Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) following the reported harassment involving Chinese vessels earlier this year, an official said Friday.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said they are accompanying fishermen in the disputed waters following the incident, even though they have "little number of Coast Guard assets."
"Ang Philippine Coast Guard, gamit ang ating mga Coast Guard vessels, ating pinaiigting ang ating presensya sa West Philippine Sea. Mayroong ibang okasyon... para ipakita ang Coast Guard, kasama ang mga mangingisda na lumalaot sa West Philippine Sea," Tarriela said during a televised briefing.
"Sinisigurado natin na ang mga mangingisda natin ay pag nagpupunta sila doon ngayon ay may coast guard vessels na handang umagapay, gabayan, at protektahan ang kanilang interes," he said.
One of their means to make sure that fishermen are properly monitored, the official said, is to give fishing vessels clearance before they leave.
The public however should not expect the Philippine Coast Guard that they would be deployed in vast areas of the West Philippine Sea given their limited assets, he said.
The Coast Guard has 3 offshore patrol vessels and other smaller vessels. The offshore patrol vessels take turns in patrolling the West Philippine Sea, he added.
"Itong mga barkong ito ay nag-iikutan, nagpapalitan sa isa't isa para ma-ensure namin na at any one time mayroon tayong Coast Guard vessels sa mga area na ito," he said.
Tarriela is also seeking more stations in the West Philippine Sea where the Coast Guard could monitor developments.
He said only the military were stationed previously in 9 islands in Palawan. It was only until last year that the PCG went here, he added.
"Kahit may kakulangan sa ating mga Coast Guard vessels, napupunuan naman ito ng Coast Guard stations na kri-neate natin sa mga islands sa West Philippine Sea," he said.
After his return from China, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr 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.
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 its claims have 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 in the area.