Thursday, August 18, 2016

Panatag fishermen get protection

From Malaya Business Insight (Aug 19): Panatag fishermen get protection

THE Coast Guard has deployed ships to conduct patrols at the disputed Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal off Zambales to ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen at the shoal which is under the de facto control of China.

“Our intention really is to protect our fishermen, that’s our primary objective,” Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. William Melad said yesterday.

The patrols were launched after a UN arbitral court invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea. The complaint was lodged by the Philippine government in 2013 after China gained control of the shoal following a standoff.

In a July 12 ruling, the tribunal said China has “unlawfully” prevented Filipino fishermen from pursuing their livelihood by interfering with traditional fishing activities at the shoal. It said fishermen from other countries are also free to fish at the shoal.

“We are doing that to a certain extent. Definitely, it is our intention to protect them and to allow them to be able to fish again within the declared traditional fishing ground in Bajo de Masinloc,” Melad said, referring to the other name of the shoal.

Asked up to where the Filipinos are allowed to fish, Melad said: “Within the area, near the area, in keeping with the (ruling of the) arbitral court and we are committed, along with other agencies, to protect them.”

He implied the patrols were launched more than three weeks ago.

Melad noted that during one patrol, Coast Guard ships saw a Chinese Coast Guard ship near the shoal.

Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said the Coast Guard and Chinese ships merely introduced themselves to each other.

Chinese ships have been driving away Filipino fishermen from the shoal since gaining control of it in 2012, the last one occurring two days after the UN court handed down its ruling.

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