MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard on Friday said it strengthened its presence in the West Philippine Sea to assist fishermen who are expected to flock to the waterway during the dry season.
The PCG said it deployed the largest ship in its fleet, the BRP Teresa Magbanua, to the Kalayaan Island Group on Feb. 2. It said it advised fishermen to radio the coast guard or the military’s shore units for assistance.
“As the summer season draws near, the PCG expects the number of Filipino fishing vessels that sail and fish in the WPS to greatly increase,” the PCG said in a statement.
The coast guard said it would fulfill its obligations “despite the danger in patrolling our waters in the West Philippine Sea.”
The PCG recently accused a Chinese vessel of using a military-grade laser light against a Philippine patrol boat in the waterway, which left the Filipino crew temporarily blinded.
The Feb. 6 incident happened nearly 20 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly Islands, where Philippine marines are stationed in a derelict navy ship grounded to assert Manila’s territorial claim in the waters.
It is the latest in a series of maritime incidents between the Philippines and China, which claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.
Days before the latest incident, the United States and the Philippines agreed to resume joint patrols in the sea, and struck a deal to give US troops access to another 4 military bases in the Southeast Asian country.
It comes as the long-time allies seek to counter China’s military activity in the region.
Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea.
Source : ABS CBN News