By Elena L. Aben
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin revealed yesterday that Chinese fishing vessels escorted by a naval ship continue to poach in Philippine waters.
Interviewed during the Philippine Navy’s 115th Anniversary celebration at Naval Station Pascual Ledesma, here, Gazmin said the Chinese fishermen are fishing off the Philippine-occupied Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“They’re fishing in our territory,” the Defense chief told reporters, adding that the Chinese fishing vessels are being escorted by a naval ship.
Gazmin also said all the ships were flying the Chinese flag.
When asked what the response to this was, Gazmin said the Philippine government will deal with the issue “calmly” by filing a diplomatic protest through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“We will do this in a calm manner so that it will not be interpreted that we are looking for a fight,” he stated.
On the incident involving the reported harassment by a Chinese vessel of a boat carrying re-elected Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon of Kalayaan town in Palawan, Gazmin said they are still waiting for a documented report on the incident.
Bito-onon claimed the incident occurred past 12 a.m. Thursday (May 15) near the Ayungin Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands.
The incident of alleged harassment by a foreign vessel happened while he and 147 other people were aboard a boat.
Gazmin said if they can confirm that it was indeed a Chinese ship that tailed the boat carrying the Kalayaan mayor, a diplomatic protest will be filed through the DFA.