PH to file protest vs continued presence of foreign vessels in West Philippine Sea

The Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file new diplomatic protests against the continuous presence and activities of foreign vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a statement, the DA-BFAR on Tuesday has expressed “serious concern” over the continuous presence of foreign vessels conducting fishing operations in the WPS.

It said Chinese Maritime Militia vessels had been monitored in big numbers in the WPS, among other concerns.

“These foreign vessels have no clearance from the Philippine government or any existing fisheries cooperation agreements with the country that allow them to conduct any fishing operations,” the agency said, adding that their fishing activities, therefore, are considered Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing within the Philippine territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Following the directive of the NTF-WPS, the DA-BFAR maintains the deployment of its law enforcement vessels in the WPS.

With the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between DA-BFAR and the Philippine National Police – Maritime Group, the conduct of joint seaborne patrol in Philippine seas, including the WPS, will be further intensified with members of the latter to serve as ship riders on DA-BFAR vessels.

Meanwhile, augmenting the efforts of the NTF-WPS in monitoring fishing activities in the area is the 24/7 operation of DA-BFAR’s Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC).

The FMC monitors and tracks activities of Philippine-flagged commercial fishing vessels including foreign vessels equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS), and detects fishing boats that employ lights to attract fish at night using the satellite-based tool, Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suites (VIIRS).

By next week, the DA-BFAR said they can already use Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images to reinforce monitoring and analysis of IUU fishing activities in the WPS.

“Through these activities, the DA-BFAR shall continue to assist in keeping the safety of Filipino fisherfolk and exercising our country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights over our territorial waters and EEZ, respectively, in the WPS,” the agency said.

On September 30, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. shared on his Twitter account that the DFA will be filing three new diplomatic protests against China over a series of unlawful actions taken by Beijing in the WPS.

Locsin said he wanted separate protests filed on China’s radio challenges issued against Philippine maritime patrols, the unlawful restriction of Filipino fishermen from fishing in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), and the continued presence of Chinese ships in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef, some 125 nautical miles off the coast of Palawan.

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