West Philippine Sea

Repelled? BFAR ship still patrolling Bajo de Masinloc, says PH Coast Guard

Bea Cupin

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Repelled? BFAR ship still patrolling Bajo de Masinloc, says PH Coast Guard

Fisherfolks from the Association of Masinloc Fishermen tow and release an 18-foot symbolic maritime bouy afloat at the West Philippine Sea in Masinloc in Zambales on November 6, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The Philippine Coast Guard says its Chinese counterpart's claim is 'inaccurate' as Philippine vessels continue to patrol Scarborough Shoal

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Thursday, February 22, that its Chinese counterpart is being “inaccurate” in claiming that it had “repelled” a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship that was patrolling Bajo de Masinloc, a feature some 100 nautical miles off the coast of Zambales.

According to a report by Chinese state-run Global Times, the China Coast Guard (CCG) said it had “repelled” the BFAR ship when it “illegally intruded into waters adjacent to China’s Huangyan Dao in the South China Sea.”

“Huangyan Dao” is China’s name for Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal.

“This statement is inaccurate,” PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said in a message to reporters.

“The BFAR vessel, BRP DATU SANDAY, continues to patrol the waters of Bajo De Masinloc. Currently, the BFAR vessel is actively ensuring the security of Filipino fishermen in that area,” Tarriela added.

Tarriela also noted that Philippine media were embedded in the BFAR ship and that “their forthcoming reports upon completion of the mission will confirm the accuracy of our statement.”

Bajo de Masinloc is a shoal that is considered as historical fishing grounds of Filipino, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese fishermen. BFAR and PCG vessels are typically close to the shoal’s waters to patrol the area and to bring supplies to Filipino fishermen, who stay for weeks at sea.

It is one of the flashpoints of tensions between China and other claimant states, including the Philippines.

China claims practically the entire South China Sea, including waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as its own – even if a 2016 arbitral ruling deemed this claim invalid.

Bajo de Masinloc also happens to be the apparent focus of the Philippines’ “transparency initiative” in the West Philippine Sea, referring to its strategy of exposing – through statements, images, and reports from independent media – China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

In January 2024, officials from Manila and Beijing met in Shanghai to discuss rising tensions in the South China Sea, particularly in Ayungin Shoal where a World War II-era vessel that was intentionally run aground in 1999 serves as a military outpost. The two countries agreed to improve maritime communications between diplomats and even between their respective coast guards. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.