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Number of fishermen in West Philippine Sea up 60% – BFAR

MANILA, Philippines — More Filipino fishermen have begun dropping their nets again in the West Philippine Sea, with a ranking official from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) claiming they have increased by more than half – encouraged largely by greater government presence and support against Chinese harassment.

In an interview onboard the M/V DA-BFAR, BFAR spokesman Nazario Briguera said the fishers – especially those operating around the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal area – now feel greater support from the government, particularly the BFAR and Philippine Coast Guard.

“If you can recall, I already stated last month the increase (in the number of fisherfolk), particularly at Scarborough as they already felt the presence of the government,” Briguera said.

He did not give specific details but he maintained that greater presence of the government has encouraged fishermen to resume their trade in the country’s waters.

“I do not have the exact figures, but based on the our estimate, the increase is between 50 and 60 percent and we can attribute this to the presence of both BFAR and coast guard. It is important for our fishers to feel the presence of the government,” he pointed out.

According to Briguera, the fuel support for the fishers has significantly improved the operation of Filipino fishers in the West Philippine Sea.

“We expanded our support through this project, LAYAG-WPS (Livelihood Activities to Enhance Fisheries Yields and Economic Gains from the West Philippine Sea). This is a more comprehensive approach from the government like the distribution of big boats, basic postharvest equipment, including skills enhancement, capacity building for our fishers,” he said.

“BFAR is there with or without the conflict or any tension. Our mandate does not change, to give support to our fisherfolk. We are not affected by this issue (tension with China),” Briguera said.

Currently, the BFAR has at least 30 floating assets to carry out its function of providing support to the fisherfolk, he said.

Briguera said that livelihood intervention provided during the launch of LAYAG-WPS in Subic, Zambales reached P60 million.

“Overall, the government has allocated