Filipino fishermen urged to avoid Panatag shoal ‘for the meantime’

Filipino fishermen urged to avoid Panatag shoal �for the meantime�
China's coast guard was reportedly seen taking the prize catch of Filipinos fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
The STAR / Val Rodriguez, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on Saturday advised local fishermen to avoid the Scarborough (Panatag) shoal “for the meantime” amid reports that Filipino fishermen have been experiencing harassment from the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea.

"Refrain muna natin na pumunta doon, for the meantime, and concentrate on our municipal waters kasi 'yun nga ang pinangingisdaan natin," BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona said in an interview on dzBB radio.

(Let’s refrain from fishing in that are for the meantime, and concentrate on our municipal waters because those are our usual fishing ground.)

“Just be careful at may mga dapat tayong pang-ilagan for the meantime," he added.

(Just be careful because there is something that we need to avoid for the meantime.)

BFAR’s statement came after a video documentary, where fishermen from Zambales narrate how Chinese coast guard personnel harass them, circulated online. The camp of senatorial bet Neri Colmenares released the video last weekend.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government would certainly protest Beijing's actions on Philippine waters but such allegations would have to be proven first.

The military, on the other hand, disputed the claims of Filipino fishers that they are being harassed by Chinese nationals in Scarborough Shoal, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Northern Luzon Command saying it has not received reports of Filipino fishermen being harassed by the Chinese.

China seized the resource-rich shoal following a standoff in 2012, thereby denying Filipino fishermen access to their traditional fishing waters. Philippine officials claim the fishermen were allowed to return after President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to Beijing in 2016. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral with a report from Patricia Lourdes Viray

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