NTF-WPS condemns Chinese maritime militia with EEZ; 294k fishermen dependent on WPS, says DA
Continuous presence of Chinese maritime militia in Philippine waters confirmed, condemned as Dept. of Agriculture lists 294,000 fishermen dependent on West Philippine Sea
MANILA – The inter-agency National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) confirmed the continuous swarming in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard and Maritime Militia which Chinese authorities claimed as ordinary fishing vessels.
In a statement released late Tuesday night, the Task Force said the latest round of sovereignty patrols undertaken by the Philippine Government last Sunday, April 11, saw an estimated 240 Chinese vessels “lingering in the WPS.”
“The AFP Western Command reported the presence of Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels in the territorial waters of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan and the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with one hundred thirty-six (136) CMMs at Burgos (Gaven) Reef, nine (9) at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, sixty-five (65) at Chigua (McKennan) Reef, six (6) at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, three (3) at Zamora (Subi) Reef, four (4) at Pag-asa (Thitu) Islands, one (1) at Likas (West York) Island, five (5) at Kota (Loatia) Island, and eleven (11) at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal,” the statement disclosed.
According to the NTF-WPS, these 240 vessels, now dispersed at the Pagkakaisa (Union) banks and Pag-asa Islands, are about sixty (60) meters in length. Each can catch one (1) ton of fish to a conservative total of 240,000 kilos of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters every day that the massed Chinese fishing vessels remain the West Philippine Sea.
The National Task Force described these acts as “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF).”
With reference to the patrol by the Philippine Coast Guard, Chinese poachers were seen collecting giant clams in the vicinity of Pag-asa Islands. They immediately fled when approached by the Philippine Coast Guard, which is considered a blatant violation of Philippine fisheries and wildlife laws, and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
They also spotted Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels, two (2) Houbei class missile warships at Panganiban Reef, one (1) Corvette class warship at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, and one (1) Navy tugboat at Zamora Reef.
The sovereignty patrols took note of two (2) Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the territorial sea of Pag-asa Islands as well as two (2) People’s Liberation Army Navy, three (3) Chinese Coast Guard and two (10) Chinese Military Militia at Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough) shoal.
“All these warships of the PLA Navy contribute to the militarization of the area,” the statement revealed.
They also expressed alarm when reports surfaced that a civilian vessel carrying a local news crew conducting interviews of Filipino fishermen were followed and shadowed by a CCG vessel and an armed Houbei class missile warship at is sailed from Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal to the coast of Palawan. The Task Force said they are now investigating the incident.
The Task Force said the combined presence of PLAN warships, CCG and CMM in the Kalayaan and Philippine EEZ “is prejudicial to the peace and security of the region.”
“The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from the marine wealth in the EEZ,” the statement added.
They called on the Chinese government to withdraw all its vessels from the Municipality of Kalayaan and the Philippine EEZ.
“In keeping with its role as a development partner, China should take the Philippine representations seriously and respect Philippine sovereignty, rights and interests in consonance with further strengthening of Philippine-China relations,” the statement concluded.
According to Undersecretary for Fisheries Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero, a total of 294,730 fisherfolk rely on the West Philippine Sea as fishing ground. The biggest number of fishermen come from MIMAROPA with 96,176, all from Northern and Southern Palawan and Occidental Mindoro.
There are 84,478 fishermen from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan while 62,257 come from Batangas and Cavite provinces. There are 41,695 fishermen from Bataan and Zambales while 10,124 come from Metro Manila. (Melo M. Acuña)
Houbei - class warship, Chinese boats within the Philippines' EEZ and Chinese fishermen into the giant clam extraction business. (Handout photos from the NTF-WPS/Melo M. Acuna)