Tag Archive: Armand Balilo

Taiwan's cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

Taiwan’s cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

A Taiwan Coast Guard ship launched speedboats and threatened to shoot a Philippine patrol vessel during their standoff over an apprehended fishing boat in waters near Batanes last week, a security official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed the incident as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the standoff.

“There came a point na ang sabi nila (Taiwan Coast Guard), ‘Stop, or we will shoot you. Release the boat,'” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity.

That incident occurred inside the “contiguous zone” of the Philippines, the official said.

Earlier Wednesday, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo confirmed the standoff, saying it occurred 18 nautical miles northeast of Batanes last May 25.

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines' Official Gazette website)

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines’ Official Gazette website)

It involved PCG members on a Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) and the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter number 118, he said.

The standoff began when Coast Guard personnel apprehended the Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6 around 6:25 p.m., Balilo said.

“The PCG was towing the fishing boat when Taiwan Coast Guard cutter 118 appeared and blocked the BFAR vessel and asked for the release of the fishing boat,” Balilo said.

Members of the PCG later released the fishing boat as per instruction by BFAR officers, after “four hours of negotiation” with the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter’s crew, he said.

The source, for his part, said things did not go as smoothly because Taiwan’s Coast Guard made several aggressive attempts to have the fishing boat released.

The cutter, according to the official, launched two speedboats in an apparent attempt to board the fishing boat and wrest it from Filipino law enforcers.

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

Taiwan’s ship also suddenly “cut” the path of the BFAR MCS-3004 vessel, risking a collision, he said.

A collision would have proven dangerous for the MCS-3004, which is only about 30 meters long as compared to the 63.5-meter Taiwanese cutter, according to the source.

That prompted the MCS-3004 to maneuver away and it went on sailing with the fishing boat in tow, until the cutter made the threat to shoot, the source said.

Only two Philippine Coast Guard members on the vessel had firearms at the time while the cutter, because of its size, is believed to be packing heavy weapons.

“They were outnumbered, outgunned, overpowered… Considering their predicament, ni-release na lang ‘yung fishing boat instead na may mapahamak,” the official said.

The source, meanwhile, revealed that a second incident involving another Taiwan Coast Guard ship occurred on May 28.

This occurred some 12 nautical miles from Batanes’ northernmost Amianan Island which is well within Philippine territory, he said.

The Taiwan Coast Guard ship appeared after PCG personnel drove away another Taiwanese fishing vessel, the source said.

Jovita Ayson, director of BFAR Region 2, said her office is now preparing reports on the incidents and will submit these to BFAR administrator Asis Perez.

Perez, in a text message, said he is out of the country and is still waiting for the reports.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR will continue patrolling waters off Batanes despite the incidents to “deter” foreign poachers, Ayson said. (John Roson)

– end –

Authorities are investigating the Chinese vessel found near Malapascua Island, Cebu, for possible illegal activities, including quarrying sand and pebbles, officials said Saturday.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesman, said there have been reports that the M/V Ming Yuan had been used to carry sand and pebbles from areas surrounding Malapascua.

“We are pursuing reports that the vessel is utilized in transporting white sand and pebbles from nearby islands,” Balilo said in a text message.

A team is now monitoring Malapascua and nearby areas “for possible illegal extraction or siphoning of white sand,” Dr. Eddie Llamedo, information officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Visayas, said when sought for more details.

The team comprises personnel of the DENR-Central Visayas, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Coast Guard, police, and the local government of Daanbantayan town, which has jurisdiction of Malapascua, he said.

Llamedo said the reports of quarrying came about after a Chinese vessel was seen, allegedly “siphoning” white sand, off Malapascua earlier this month.

A Chinese vessel was inspected on June 15, but authorities did not find white sand on it, he said.

Llamedo could not say if the inspected vessel was also the M/V Ming Yuan.

Meanwhile, Balilo said immigration officials have confiscated the passports of the crew members of M/V Ming Yuan, though the crew members were allowed to remain on the vessel.

While the probe is going on, the ship was also ordered to stay away from Malapascua, which is popular among tourists for its white sand beaches.

“Since the vessel was anchored on a passenger vessel route and posing as hazard to navigation, the vessel was directed to anchor in Northern Cebu while government agencies are investigating possible illegal activities of the shipping company,” Balilo said.

Llamedo said Malapascua is not listed among the country’s “protected areas,” but should be protected just the same because it is public property.

“Because of its being a small island or islet that is less than 250 hectares, it is considered as public land, meaning it is owned by the state or government,” he said. (John Roson)

– end –

At least 1,000 square meters of the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan was damaged because of the grounding of the US Navy ship USS Guardian, the Coast Guard said.

“Initially, 1,000 square meters of the reef was damaged,” Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said, citing results of an investigation by Joint Task Force Tubbataha.

The task force, led by Department of Transportation and Communications Usec. Eduardo Oban, is still conducting “further assessments,” Balilo said.

Members of the task force include the Coast Guard, AFP Western Command (Westcom), Philippine Navy, Tubbataha Management Office, and local government units.

A Nomad plane of the Air Force conducted another reconnaissance flight over Tubbataha on Wednesday morning, according to Westcom.

A rubber boat, apparently from the US, was seen approaching the USS Guardian around 8 a.m., a Westcom official said.

The USS Guardian, a minesweeper, ran aground at the reef’s “South Atoll” on Jan. 17, three days after making a port call in Subic Bay, Zambales. (John Roson)

– end –

At least 90 families evacuated their homes as rains spawned by tropical depression “Auring” caused floods in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, authorities said.

The families were evacuated to higher grounds after the Lubungan River in Brgy. San Jose overflowed, Office of Civil Defense administrator Benito Ramos said.

Other affected areas in Zamboanga del Norte include the municipalities of Katipunan and President Manuel A. Roxas.

In Katipunan, a portion of the National Highway had knee-deep floods while high water level was recorded at the Dicayo Bridge.

In President Manuel A. Roxas, high water level was recorded at the Piao and Tangian Bridge, as well as in Brgys. Irasan and Langatian.

Floods left at least two houses in Purok Malinggay, Lower Irasan, totally damaged while neck-deep water level was recorded in Purok Tubo, Ramos said, adding that no casualties have so far been reported.

Zamboanga City experienced light to moderate rains and gusty winds around 12:30 p.m. but local authorities have yet to submit reports of any damage, Ramos said.

Ferry runs aground

Meanwhile, a ferry from Zamboanga ran aground in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, amid strong waves Thursday morning.

The ferry, which was carrying 228 passengers and 14 crew members, was manuevering to dock at the Dumaguete Port around 10 a.m. when it ran aground, Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said.

“Wala pang PSWS (public storm warning signal) nung ma-aground pero malakas ang alon,” Balilo said when asked if the incident was caused by tropical depression “Auring.”

As of 2 p.m., Coast Guard, police, and port personnel were still bringing the ferry’s passengers to land via rubber boats, he said.

Palawan alerted

Around 12 noon, the center of “Auring” was located 370 kilometers east of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

Ramos said the weather disturbance was heading towards southern Palawan and could make a landfall Thursday night or early Friday.

“Ngayong gabi baka lalakas dahil ang ugali ng bagyo, pag nag-travel sa dagat, Sulu Sea for this matter, lalakas ito at magbabago ng direksyon,” he said.

Ramos said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has already alerted its units and allied agencies in southern municipalities of Palawan, including Aborlan, Narra, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Quezon, and Rizal.

“They still have 18 hours to go, kaya binigay na natin sa local disaster management units ‘yung discretion kung sila ay magpi-preemptive evacuation. Ang low-lying area lang naman na identified ay isa, yung sa Narra,” he said. (John Roson)

– end –