MANILA (Mabuhay) — A Chinese Coast Guard vessel entered the country’s exclusive territory and crossed paths with the Philippine Coast Guard, PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said Thursday.
“Very polite naman yung exchange of messages. Nagpakilala lang sila (Chinese Coast Guard) at nagpakilala lang din kami. Nagtanungan lang,” Balilo said in a chance interview with reporters at the sidelines of the turnover of a search and rescue vessel loaned from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Balilo said the face-off, which happened three weeks ago, occured 73 to 100 nautical miles from Subic coast, a traditional fishing area for Filipino fishermen.
Balilo said the two PCG vessels were accompanying the fishermen when one Chinese Coast vessel passed by in the area.
“We have been patrolling the area, assisting our fishermen. Kaya nandun yung mga barko ng Coast Guard. We intend to continue patrolling doon. It is part of the West Philippine Sea. It is within our exclusive economic zone,” Balilo said.
Balilo admitted that the two PCG vessels were comparably smaller than the passing Chinese Coast Guard vessel.
“But they were very cordial. No untoward incident happened. Hindi rin naman pinigilan makapangisda ang ating fishermen,” Balilo clarified.
This was contrary to previous incidents when Filipino fishermen were barred by the Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, even in those areas that are considered as the Filipino fishermen’s traditional fishing grounds.
Just last month, the United Nation’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that there is “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line,” a tongue-shaped claim of China of almost the entire South China Sea.
In a separate interview, PCG Commandant Rear Admiral William Melad said it is just normal for foreign vessels to pass the country’s exclusive economic zone, but they have no right to fish in the area or from preventing the local fisherfolks from fishing there.
“Normal naman yan in the past (passing of Chinese vessel). But with the new (PCA) ruling, it has been established that it is part of our exclusive economic zone. We could now go there and go fishing there anytime we want,” Melad said. (MNS)