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‘China fishers used cyanide to destroy Bajo de Masinloc’

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PH accuses Chinese boats of ‘dangerous’ actions

Chinese fishers have been using cyanide in Bajo de Masinloc to intentionally destroy the traditional fishing grounds of Filipinos, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources chief information officer Nazario Briguera said.

Briguera said parts of the resource-rich area has been destroyed.

The Philippines also accused Chinese coast guard ships of “dangerous” maneuvers after they repeatedly blocked a Filipino vessel delivering supplies to fishermen at Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, on Thursday and Friday.

Bajo de Masinloc has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012. Since then, Beijing has deployed patrol boats that Manila said harass Philippine vessels and prevent Filipino fishermen from reaching a lagoon where fish are more plentiful.

In the latest incidents, a Chinese navy ship, China Coast Guard vessels and other Chinese boats shadowed the BFAR vessel Datu Tamblot that was bringing food and fuel to Filipino fishermen, allowing them to spend more time at sea and pursue a larger catch.

The Datu Tamblot and the China Coast Guard vessels issued repeated radio challenges to each other, with each side accusing the other of encroaching into their territorial waters.

On four occasions, Chinese coast guard vessels briefly blocked the Datu Tamblot by crossing its bow and stopping in its path as it neared the shoal.

“It’s not permitted for any vessel to cross the bow of another vessel because it is very dangerous,” PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela said.

Tarriela, who is the coast guard’s spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, said such actions could “cause a collision.”

Despite the Chinese actions, the Datu Tamblot was able to get within a few kilometers of the shoal and deliver 21,000 liters (5,550 gallons) of diesel and other provisions to 19 Filipino fishing boats, Tarriela said.

President Marcos has ordered the PCG and BFAR to maintain the country’s presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), in particular in Bajo de Masinloc, amid China’s continued presence in Philippine waters, Tarriela said.

“It is now the guidance of our President to have a rational deployment between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to maintain our presence in Bajo de Masinloc,” he said.

“Our objective here is to protect the Filipino fishermen. To make sure that Filipino fisherfolk can continue fishing at the Bajo de Masinloc. Our objective is not to provoke anybody, not to escalate the tension in Bajo de Masinloc,” Tarriela added.

Briguera also expressed confidence the rotational deployment in Bajo de Masinloc will improve fisheries output in the West Philippine Sea.

“We are confident that if there is really the presence of the government and the fisherfolk are observing that they are being supported, their morale will be boosted. We are seeing that the production in the West Philippine Sea will improve,” he said.

Scarborough Shoal is 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

China claims almost the entire sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

The incidents came after tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea last year that saw collisions between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannons at Philippine boats. With AFP

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