MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has requested the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to “immediately cut and remove the floating barrier” installed by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) in Bajo de Masinloc, reportedly preventing Philippine fishing boats from entering access and conduct fishing activities in the area.
Based on the video posted to PCG’s Facebook page early Sunday, agency staff and members of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources witnessed the installation of an approximately 1,000-foot-long barrier on the southeast portion of the shoal last September 22.
READ: PCG: China installs floating barrier southeast of Bajo de Masinloc
“First, they have no right to place structures within our Exclusive Economic Zone, and second, these structures pose a hazard to passing fishing boats that can become entangled in the lines and cause significant damage to our fishermen’s propellers and engines. ,” Zubiri said in a statement on Sunday.
“Therefore, I would like to request our Philippine Coast Guard to immediately cut down and remove all these illegal structures in our West Philippine Sea, not only to assert our sovereign rights in the area but to protect our fishermen from possible accidents that can arise from these illegal structures,” he added.
In addition to installing the barrier, PCG also reported that four CCG ships initiated fifteen radio challenges to drive away the boats of Filipino fishermen and the BFAR ship.
BFAR answered every radio call as it emphasized that they were conducting a routine patrol within the territorial sea of Bajo de Masinloc. PCG said CCG ships only withdrew when they noticed the presence of media personnel on board the BFAR ship.
Zubiri said the Senate stands with PCG, commending the agency for “its tireless and unwavering efforts to monitor and protect the areas within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zones, and Bajo de Masinloc is well within our 12NM territory.”
Senator Francis Tolentino supported Zubiri’s call to remove the barrier, pointing out that only the Philippines could install these devices in the shoal to, among other things, contain an oil spill.
“Sangayon po ako na tanggalin ang floating barrier dahil bawal mag lagay ng palatandaan na ito ay “restricted zone”, in ang Pilipinas lang ang pwedeng maglagay nito kung merong oil spill or bahagi ng aquaculture management as a temporary measure,” Tolentino said in a separate statement.
(I am in favor of removing the floating barrier because it is forbidden to put up a sign saying this is a ‘restricted zone’, and only the Philippines can put this up as a temporary measure if there is an oil spill or if is part of aquaculture management.)
“Masinloc’s Bajo can travel 120 nautical miles to reach Zambales and expand China’s floating barrier to bakuran. International law can put China’s floating barrier into practice at this time. It is possible that PCG will start managing it,” he added.
(Bajo de Masinloc is only 120 nautical miles from Zambales, and China should not make it difficult for our fishermen to fish in our territory. The Chinese installation of a floating barrier violates international law and must be removed immediately. PCG has done the right thing in support of our fishermen.)
Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, expressed concern about the safety of local fishermen as she called on the current administration to review national policies in dealing with China.
“China’s cruelty knows no bounds. Napakawalang would fight the fact that it can save the karagatan,” Hontiveros said in another statement.
(Their aggressive act of stopping our fishermen in our waters is too brazen.)
“Hindi tayo papayag na patayin sa gutom ng Tsina ang ating mga mamamayan. I trust that the Philippine Coast Guard can guide our fishermen and ensure they pass through the floating barriers. Many of our efforts are focused on the governance of the national policies pursued by Tsina,” she added.
(We will not allow China to starve our citizens. I trust that the Philippine Coast Guard can guide our fishermen and ensure they pass through the floating barriers. I once again call on the current administration to reform our national policy on China to review.)