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BFAR to purchase new vessels to beef up presence in WPS

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said Monday that it will procure additional patrol vessels to strengthen its presence and assist Filipino fisherfolk in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The government allocated around P2.5 billion for the purchase of new monitoring, control and surveillance vessels, BFAR spokesperson Nazario Briguera told state-run People’s Television (PTV). 

“This is for our fishermen. The government has a platform to further extend assistance to them and for them to see the presence of the government in the West Philippine Sea. So we need to add floating assets,” he said in Filipino. 

In a separate interview, Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for WPS matters, said that the PCG is in talks with BFAR to ensure the complementary deployment of their vessels in the tense waterway. 

“In instances when the PCG temporarily returns to port for logistical requirements, this is the opportunity for BFAR to deploy their boats,” Tarriela said. 

The PCG reported Sunday that it had monitored the presence of eight Chinese vessels during a patrol earlier this month in Bajo de Masinloc, a rich fishing ground in the West Philippines. 

The PCG accused the China Coast Guard (CCG) of shadowing its patrol boat BRP Sierra Madre “on more than 40 occasions” and performing “dangerous and blocking maneuvers.”

BRP Teresa Magbanua was deployed in early February to deliver provisions to Filipino fishers, and ensure their safety.

Situated 240 kilometers west of Luzon, Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, has long been a fishing ground utilized by generations of Filipino fishers.

Since taking control of the shoal in 2012, Beijing has deployed vessels to patrol the area, even though it is almost 900 kilometers from the nearest Chinese landmass of Hainan. — Gaea Katreena Cabico