Fishermen are authorized to continue fishing in and near Bajo de Masinloc, better known as the Scarborough Shoal, according to a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official on Wednesday.
Commodore Armando Balilo, a PCG spokesperson, said during a press conference in Malacañang that the PCG has not received any recent reports of fisherfolk being denied admission to the area, noting that four PCG ships patrol Bajo de Masinloc on a regular basis.
“In fact, habang nag-uusap po tayo sa mga oras na to, meron report po sa min na meron isang barko at isang bangka na nasa loob mismo ng Bajo de Masinloc,” Balilo said.
PCG ships also distribute food and other supplies to local fishermen as part of its “Bayanihan sa Karagatan” outreach program, he said.
“Binibigyan namin ng tulong yung mga fishermen na nakikita ng mga tropa na nangingisda po diyan,” Balilo said.
He mentioned that because it is “payao” season, many fishermen are keeping away from Bajo de Masinloc.
“Talagang pinipili ng mga mangingisda na majority sa kanila ay nag-i-stay po dun sa kanilang mga payao na medyo malayo sa Bajo de Masinloc,” Balilo said.
Payaos are artificial reefs used to attract fish in the Philippines. They are usually made of bamboo rafts and palm fronds, but they can now be made of steel and may include fish lights to boost productivity.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs opposed China’s unilateral fishing restriction in the West Philippine Sea in May, claiming that it encroaches on Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone, including Bajo de Masinloc.
The apparent fishing ban is in effect from May 1 to August 16.