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More local fishermen now fishing in WPS

MORE Filipino fishermen are now fishing in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), an area they avoided in the past due to the presence of China Coast Guard vessels.

“I am happy to announce that there are more and more Filipinos fishing in the West Philippine Sea,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command commander Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said on Wednesday in a public briefing.

“We always encourage our countrymen to sail and go fishing in the West Philippine Sea. We encourage them so that we can have a partner in waving our flag in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

He added that local fishermen were now fishing undisturbed, particularly off Ayungin Shoal.

“Maybe because of the news they have been hearing in the past, they have doubts about going to Ayungin Shoal. We had a deliberate effort to convince them and I am happy to report that in just two months we have Filipino fishermen in Ayungin Shoal peacefully fishing,” Carlos added.

Just recently Captain Lito Al-os of the Filipino fishing boat Ken-Ken reported to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that China Coast Guard vessel 5204 chased them away from Ayungin Shoal.

In November 2021, three Chinese coast guard vessels were documented blocking and using water cannons on Philippine boats en route to Ayungin Shoal.

The Philippine ships were transporting supplies to a military outpost in the area.

Carlos said the AFP will further strengthen its presence in the WPS.

Despite the better conditions, Pangasinan fishermen will depend on payao, not the Scarborough Shoal for fish.

A payao is a floating artificial reef usually made up of bamboo and palm leaves. It is lowered under rafts to attract small fish that feed on plankton. Bigger fish are in turn attracted by the small fish.

Cato Infanta Fishermen Association president Erick Naboa said fishing at the Scarborough Shoal is seasonal, usually starting in November and ending in May.

He said a five-day big boat fishing expedition to the Scarborough Shoal will incur at least P150,000 to cover provisions and fuel.

Infanta police chief Capt. Higardo Sapiera said they had been monitoring their fishermen’s activities, encouraging them to report any untoward incident during their fishing trips.

“But from the time I assumed office here last October 2021, there has been no incident at the Scarborough Shoal that was reported to me,” Sapiera said.

— Franco Jose C. Baroña and Gabriel L. Cardinoza

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