Tindog added that Wescom personnel have been talking to the Filipino fishermen to know their concerns.
No harassment of Filipino fishermen near Pag-asa Island – military
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Palawan-based Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (Wescom) has belied reports of Chinese harassment of Filipino fishermen near Pag-asa Island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago from early last year until today.

“Based on reports received from our Joint Task Force, covering from 2018 to the present, our operating units have monitored the presence of fishing vessels from various countries, including the Philippines, conducting fishing activities in the sandbars in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island,” said Capt. Cherryl Tindog, Wescom’s Public Affairs Office chief.

Tindog added that Wescom personnel have been talking to the Filipino fishermen to know their concerns.

“We have not received any complaint or report from them that they are being harassed or driven away from that area,” Tindog said.

Tindog noted that Wescom has encouraged the fishermen to continue their operations in the area, adding that the government was putting up a shelter port in the island for the fishermen.

Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo earlier claimed that Chinese vessels shooed the Filipino fishermen away from Sandy Cay, allegedly denying his constituents their source of livelihood.

But there is no fish around Pag-asa, according to a senior security official who asked not to be named, as the corals in the surrounding waters of Sandy Cay are dead.

“If there are Filipino fishing boats out there, they’re just there for their supply of drinking water,” the official added.

Pag-asa Island, home to around 200 to 300 residents, also serves as a key military outpost of the Wescom in support of the country’s maritime and sovereignty claim in the disputed archipelago.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had directed the military to validate reports of the alleged harassment.

“(But) it has to be noted that the area referred to by Mayor del Mundo is a traditional fishing ground for the Philippines and other countries, including China and Vietnam,” the Department of National Defense said in a statement. – With Michael Punongbayan

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