No reports of Pinoy fishermen shooed from Pag-asa Island: military


MANILA – The military said Tuesday it has not received reports of Filipino fishermen being prevented by Chinese vessels from fishing or landing on the sandbars around Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

On the contrary, the Armed Forces’ Western Command (WesCom) has received information that Filipino fishermen have been able to successfully fish around the area and take rest and shelter in the sandbars, according to Vice Admiral Rene Medina, newly-installed WesCom commander.

Recent reports from Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo said Chinese vessels have been barring the path of Filipino boats and shooing them away from the sandbars.

Fondly called “Secret Island” by residents of Pag-asa Island, these sandbars have always been fishing grounds for Filipino fishermen and recreational swimming areas for the residents.

Medina said there were around 10 Chinese vessels anchored near the islands, which are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, the West Philippine Sea, in the disputed South China Sea.

China is claiming the resource rich waters in its near entirety, ignoring an international tribunal’s ruling against its 9-dash line claim.

He said the WesCom has not received reports of them harassing Filipinos, except that their presence is peculiar as none of the ships are doing any fishing at all.

WesCom forces have continually monitored the activities of these vessels, but Medina said it was likely that the fleet is also monitoring them, consistent with the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that these vessels are actually Chinese military militia.

Lorenzana, meanwhile, refrained from commenting on the issue without confirmation from the military on the ground, but said China has assured the Philippines that no violence would break out.