WPS (File photo)

Filipino fishermen are now enjoying the freedom and safety to engage in fishing activities in the West Philippine Sea, despite the presence of illegal activities perpetrated by other claimant countries, the AFP Western Command (WESCOM) chief VAdm Alberto Carlos reported.

In a press briefing, Carlos expressed their delight in sharing that the number of Filipino fishing boats in the area has increased.

“Masaya kong ibabalita sa inyo na dumarami na ang mga mangingisda na Pilipino sa West Philippine Sea. Ito po ay lagi naming minumungkahi at palagi po naming hinihikayat ang atin pong mga kababayan na maglayag, magpalaot sa West Philippine Sea at mangisda,” he said.

Carlos also reported that within two months, peaceful fishing activities resumed in Ayungin Shoal, showcasing the successful engagement and cooperation between authorities and local fishermen.

“Siguro dala ng balitang nadinig noong araw ay may agam-agam silang pumunta sa Ayungin Shoal and we have a deliberate effort to convince them and I’m happy to report na sa loob ng dalawang buwan na ay meron na tayong mga Filipino fishing boats sa Ayungin Shoal na mapayapa namang nangingisda sa ating karagatan doon.,” he reported.

Last February, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) experienced aggression when a China Coast Guard vessel aimed a military grade laser beam and issued radio challenges in Ayungin Shoal.

Aside from this, illegal fishing activities were also carried out by other claimant countries in the area.

One recent incident involved Vietnamese fishermen approaching the waters near Pag-asa Island last December. Paraphernalia used for cyanide fishing have also been seized, although some perpetrators managed to escape aboard their ships.

“Mayroon po kaming namonitor mga illegal fishing activities, cyanide fishing, compressor fishing and ito po ay agad po nating tinutugunan,” Carlos said.

Carlos attributed these developments to the increased military presence and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) patrols conducted by the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) in the area.

“Para mapangalagaan ang ating karagatan ang pagpapalakas ng ating maritime security operations, yung pagpapatrolya ng ating mga barko sa WPS katulong sama-sama kami ng Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) para po ma-deter, magkaroon ng deterrence at detect ang mga activities sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Carlos continues to encourage local fisherfolk to venture into the West Philippine sea as he believes that increased presence will contribute to the overall protection and assertion of the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the region.

“Gusto po namin i-encourage upang magkaroon kami ng katuwang sa pagwagayway sa ating watawat sa West Philippine Sea.” Carlos said.