PCG reports ‘increased presence’ of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 25) — More Filipinos are now fishing in the disputed Scarborough Shoal—locally known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc—amid the government's "intensified" maritime operations, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported on Friday.

The "increasing presence" of local fishermen was monitored from Feb. 28 to March 5, it said, noting that the PCG recorded 45 Filipino fishing boats in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales.

It is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales, within the 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"Seeing more Filipino fishing boats in Bajo de Masinloc is a proof of our intensified efforts to safeguard Filipino fishermen who consider fishing as their primary source of livelihood," PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said in a statement.

"Through our regular interaction, we assure them that the PCG will remain active and present in the area," he added.

In cooperation with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the PCG said they implemented "rules-based and peaceful approaches" against foreign vessels, including "shadowing" China Coast Guard spotted within the waters of Bajo de Masinloc.

In May last year, the Philippine government filed two diplomatic protests against China, citing the latter's "illegal presence" in Bajo de Masinloc and in Ayungin Shoal.

The protests demanded China to withdraw its vessels from Philippine waters.

READ: 'Get the f*** out': DFA files 2 new protests vs China's 'belligerent' acts in Bajo de Masinloc, illegal ships in PH waters

Despite firing diplomatic protests, President Rodrigo Duterte later commented that the arbitral victory against China on the West Philippine Sea is just a piece of paper.

The Philippines won the maritime arbitration case versus China in July 2016.