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China removes its floating barriers from Panatag

MANILA, Philippines, February 20 ------ The reasons are not yet clear, but China has removed its floating barriers in the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, National Security Council assistant director general Jonathan Malaya said. The removal comes amid the increased rotational presence of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine Navy vessels in the area. 


According to Malaya, the China Coast Guard removed the barriers over the weekend shortly after the BRP Datu Tamblot of BFAR brought fuel and other supplies to Filipino fishermen in the area. “Per PCG, the barrier is no longer there,” Malaya told The STAR, opting not to speculate on the reasons or motive behind China’s latest actions and how the Philippines will respond. At yesterday’s Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon public briefing, he jokingly remarked that China probably removed the floating barriers because “siguro natatakot na rin silang putulin natin” (they probably feared that we would cut it), much like what the PCG did in September last year. 


Malaya said the rotation and resupply or RORE mission to Panatag Shoal on Saturday was very successful as it was able to bring help to 21 Filipino commercial fishing vessels. On Feb. 18, the multi-role response vessels BRP Sindangan and BRP Cabra also gave aid to Filipino fishermen onboard F/B John Jerry and F/B Maricris and Tessie – providing them with food packs, water and medicines. “The courage of our fishermen grow stronger when they see that the government is there for them,” Malaya said, noting that almost 21 tons of fuel, 14,000 liters of diesel, 60 liters of motor oil, medicines, food and groceries have so far been distributed at sea. He explained that the RORE missions and the increased presence of Philippine vessels in Panatag Shoal has several implications, including helping fishermen stay and fish longer at sea. “Two, it flies the flag, meaning we are implementing the 2016 Arbitral Ruling,” Malaya added. 


With more Philippine vessels rotationally patrolling and bringing supplies to local fishing vessels, he called on Filipino fishermen to continue fishing in the area and to not be afraid. On reports that foreign fishermen are using cyanide to fish and intentionally destroy marine resources in Bajo de Masinloc, he said the information is still being validated and investigated. 




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