Tag Archive: Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources


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)

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Foreign poachers are still conducting activities in the Philippines’ northern seas and are now even going closer to the islands of Batanes, officials said Saturday.

“Many of these are Taiwanese fishing boats. Actually they even get near the islands, particularly Itbayat,” Milagros Morales, assistant director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-2 (BFAR-2), said by phone.

“Hindi naman kasing dami as in the past, but they are still there, still visible,” she added.

Morales made the remarks when asked on the status of poaching activities in the Balintang Channel, which borders the Philippines and Taiwan.

Aside from Taiwanese, local fishermen are also reporting sightings of Vietnamese and Chinese poachers, Batanes provincial fisheries officer Angel Encarnacion said in a separate phone interview.

“We don’t know how many there are, but poachers are still coming in even after we arrested one last year,” Encarnacion said, referring to the arrest of Taiwanese Tsai Po off Itbayat on September 3, 2013.

Boats that usually go near the islands are those that catch fish and other marine animals, which are later unloaded to a “mother” vessel lurking far away, he said.

“Local fishermen are reporting the sightings and some have even expressed willingness to go after the poachers, but we remind them not to because we have diplomatic arrangements with Taiwan,” Encarnacion added.

Presently, only one BFAR vessel – manned by Coast Guard members – is patrolling the country’s northern seas.

“Poachers would usually keep out of sight when the vessel patrols and then come back when it’s away,” Morales said.

She said patrols by the BFAR and Coast Guard are still continuing despite “constraining” effects of another incident, where eight Coast Guard personnel were charged homicide after shooting a Taiwanese poacher who intruded Philippine waters on May 9, 2013.

“Dahil sa kaso natin last year, parang helpless tayo, hindi tayo masyadong makagalaw… We have to do it (patrols) because if we will just leave them (poachers) to it, parang nakakasakit naman sa loob na nandiyan lang sila at wala tayong magawa,” she said.

Also because of continuous poaching, the BFAR ordered the construction of a customized boat that would help its vessel conduct patrols, Encarnacion said.

The boat, worth about P1 million, is being fashioned after Taiwanese fishing boats to withstand rough sea conditions in the Balintang Channel and is expected to be launched in June, he said.

The provincial fisheries office also gave a local fishermen’s association another boat, binoculars, navigational equipment, and communication devices so they can help monitor poachers, Encarnacion said.

“We are doing this while waiting for the multi-mission vessels that the national [BFAR] office will send to Batanes,” Encarnacion said.

BFAR director Asis Perez announced earlier this year that the bureau will acquire more than 40 units of 30-footer and 40-footer multi-mission vessels to strengthen visibility and patrols in different parts of the country. (John Roson)

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The Philippines’ two-month fishing ban at the hotly-contested Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) expires Sunday, amid a fresh deployment of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

As of Saturday, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has not yet issued a directive to continue the “close fishing season,” its director, Asis Perez said.

“Wala pa po tayong action dun, pagka hindi po tayo nagbigay ng bagong directive tomorrow, or by Monday, ibig sabihin expired na ‘yun… hanggang [July] 15 lang po yun” Perez said in a phone interview.

The ban’s expiration comes amid reports that China sent a big fishing fleet to the South China Sea, which Manila calls its West Philippine Sea.

The 30-vessel fleet set out from the southern Chinese province of Hainan on Thursday, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Last May 13, China announced that an “annual” fishing ban was to be imposed in parts of the South China Sea, including waters around Panatag Shoal which it calls Huangyan Island.

The Philippines, which was then locked in a “standoff” with Chinese law enforcement vessels in Panatag, also declared a fishing ban days after, but said it had nothing to do with China’s move.

China’s fishing ban was imposed May 16 and will last until August 1, Xinhua reported then.

However, Chinese fishing vessels, which bring along dozens of dinghies, have been monitored inside Panatag’s “lagoon” since the ban’s supposed implementation until as recently as July 2, according to Philippine security officials. (John Roson)

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President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the country’s two ships near Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) to return home because of bad weather.

Aquino ordered the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels to “return to port” Friday night due to “increasing bad weather,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.

The President’s order came as typhoon “Butchoy” (international name: Guchol) came closer to the country via the Pacific Ocean.

The storm was seen continuously moving towards the country’s northwest Saturday, packing maximum 120 kph winds near the center and a gustiness of up to 150 kph.

“When weather improves, a reevaluation will be made,” Del Rosario said.

Sought for comment on the ships’ pullout, the Department of National Defense said it sees the move as only “normal.”

“It’s a common practice for ships to seek safer areas during inclement weather. Siyempre ang iniisip ni Presidente diyan ay ‘yung safety ng ating mga personnel,” DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

The military, on the other hand, said it will just continue to monitor developments in Panatag through the Coast Guard.

“That’s the mandate, order ng President ‘yan eh, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is just following,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said.

“We will be closely in touch with the Philippine Coast Guard… we will maintain coordination with the Coast Guard and other agencies as far as the security of the area is concerned,” he said.

The Coast Guard and BFAR ships had been in a “standoff” with several Chinese law enforcement vessels in Panatag since April, after the Navy tried to arrest Chinese fishermen who were seen carrying live sharks, corals, and giant clams poached from Philippine waters on their boats.

The Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar was the first to engage the Chinese in the standoff, but was eventually pulled out in what government officials said was a move to let civilian agencies deal with Chinese civilian agencies. (John Roson)

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Authorities have seen “signs of degradation” in and around Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez confirmed Wednesday.

Personnel of the BFAR and Philippine Coast Guard assigned in the area have reported “water discoloration” and “destruction of corals,” Perez said in a phone interview.

The changes in the shoal’s environment is apparently caused by an increasing number of fishermen, the BFAR chief said.

Perez made the remarks as the BFAR ordered a stop to fishing activities in Panatag, following a similar move by China.

The BFAR’s two-month “close fishing season” took effect Tuesday night.

“For the meantime lang ito, kasi malapit na rin ‘yung habagat (monsoon season). Tapos based na rin dun sa mga reports galing sa area, medyo marami po ang nangingisda. Kaya po maganda na isarado po muna natin ‘yung dagat para makapahinga po ‘yung Bajo de Masinloc,” Perez said.

Bajo de Masinloc is the name given to Panatag during the Spanish colonization period.

During the “close fishing season,” the BFAR will conduct studies in and around Panatag to determine the extent of damage that the shoal and its environment have suffered.

“Pag-aaralan natin ‘yung biological as well as the physical characteristics of the area, to be able to determine what appropriate management measures ang dapat gawin dun sa lugar,” Perez said.

As of Tuesday night, four Filipino fishing boats and about 10 Chinese fishing vessels were still in Panatag.

Vessels of the BFAR, Coast Guard, and the Chinese Maritime Survellance also remain in a “standoff” in Panatag to lay the Philippines’ and China’s claim to the rich fishing ground. (John Roson)

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