AFP wants more Filipino fishermen to go to Ayungin Shoal, other West PH Sea areas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP WESCOM) wants more Filipinos to fish at Ayungin Shoal and other maritime features of the West Philippine Sea.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a forum organized by Stratbase Institute on Wednesday, AFP WESCOM chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said the government is encouraging more Filipino fishermen to go to the area.

"There is an ongoing effort to convince Filipino fishermen to fish in the West Philippine Sea para ma-exercise natin ang ating sovereign rights to fish [so that we can exercise our sovereign rights to fish]," said Carlos.

The WESCOM chief said there are now a handful of Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

In a separate phone interview, Carlos said two big Filipino fishing vessels returned to Ayungin Shoal, while 15 others were monitored at Rozul Reef, which is in the southern portion of Recto Bank.

"I'm happy to report the presence ng ating mangingisda [of our fishermen] in Ayungin and Rozul reef and their number has increased but not yet substantial but we need more," he added.

Carlos gave his assurance that there will be more presence on the part of the AFP, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to monitor the situation.

"We will continue to increase our presence, that's our commitment. We will be there to assist them when they need us," the WESCOM chief said when asked about the possible fear over the presence of Chinese coast guard and Chinese maritime militia in the area.

China's actions in the West Philippine Sea have been increasingly aggressive, including swarming the area with its vessels and putting a floating barrier at Scarborough Shoal.

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