The armed forces’ Western Command (WESCOM) has expressed continuing concern over the presence of Chinese fishing vessels around the Philippine-held Pag-asa island despite reports their number has reduced.
WESCOM commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina, briefing the Palawan press, said the Chinese should “totally leave” the area.
“On the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly WESCOM, the reduction in number is immaterial. What’s really important is dapat wala talaga sila doon. Dapat wala talaga sila doon. If they are true to their words that talagang aalisin, dapat wala talaga dapat. ‘Yon ang point namin regardless kung ilan ang natira or merong umalis, dapat talaga wala,” he said.
Medina said that while they cannot “exactly” confirm how many CFVs (Chinese fishing vessels) are no longer in the area where fish congregate between Pagasa Island of the Kalayaan municipality and China-claimed Subi Reef, from 254 during the first quarter, the number dropped to 138 in April and May.
He said that they particularly noticed the decline in April, but on April 15 and 16, the daily sightings rose again.
“Based on the daily sightings, talagang bumaba siya noong month ng April. Tumaas lang siya uli noong April 15 and 16 and April 18 bumaba siya uli. Why? Because at that time kasi may ongoing Balikatan dito. Pero kung titingnan mo ‘yong trend, talagang bumaba sa Pag-asa sightings,” he said.
However, Medina said that a closer look at their reports, also tells them that “some” CFVs would transfer to nearby Panata and Kota islands and then go back to Subi Reef later after completing their fishing sojourns.
There are many other factors why their number is declining, he added, and one of them was when Duterte went to China on April 25-28 to meet with President Xi Jinping.
“Kung titingnan namin ‘yong data namin, ‘yong attribution kung bakit bababa siya ay maraming factors. Isa doon siguro ‘yong when the president went to China… kung titingnan mo ‘yon bago pa siya dumating ng China talagang bumaba na. Hanggang tuloy-tuloy na ‘yon ngayon, hanggang sa present,” he said.
In May, he said, the daily sightings have gone down to less than 20.